A Look at History’s Wealthiest

Here at Peeptrade, we like to focus on the real time trading activity of investors. This week, however, we decided to take a look back. Way back, in fact, at some of history’s richest people. Our top ten list contains some of the wealthiest people in history, alongside fascinating stories about their lives and legacies. Discover how these men and women made their fortunes, and then stop by our Meet the Gurus page to see how our traders made theirs.

10. Bill Gates

Net worth: $77.3 billion

Lived: 1955 — Present

Nation: United States

About: For perspective’s sake, we decided to include Bill Gates in this list. The Microsoft founder’s net worth is considerably easier to calculate than other some of history’s wealthiest. Successful from his involvement in the personal computer revolution, Gates now spends the bulk of his time focusing on charity. Among other ambitions, his current goal is to eradicate Polio from the face of the planet. Despite Gates’ wealth, it is clear that the billionaire would appear quite poor next to some of history’s richest.

9. Cornelius Vanderbilt

Net worth: $185 billion

Lived: 1794–1877

Nation: United States

About: The Vanderbilt name is associated in America with wealth and prestige. Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt is the reason for this, building his fortune from his railroad and shipping businesses. While Cornelius was certainly wealthy, he was a quite interesting man, as well. Although it is not well-known, the railroad tycoon actually married his first cousin, Sophia, and had thirteen children with her! Additionally, despite the prestige associated with the family’s name, when the descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt held a reunion in 1973, not a single one of them were millionaires.

8. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII

Net worth: $225 billion

Lived: 1886–1967

Nation: India

About: Ali Khan was the last Nizam of Hyderabad, which he ruled until it was annexed by India in 1948. His enormous wealth came from his family’s royalty and control over the Hyderabad region. During the height of his power, the ruler’s wealth was such that he once used a 185-carat diamond worth $200 million as a paperweight and once employed 6,000 people in his royal palace, 38 of whom were solely responsible for dusting his chandeliers. In addition to his enormous wealth, Ali Khan was also very generous and supported the introduction of electricity, railways, roads, and further infrastructure in India in the 20th century. He is also famous for being the founder of Osmania University. While he was certainly wealthy, his descendents were slightly less so. Upon his death, legal disputes split his fortune in over 100 different directions.

7. Jakob Fugger

Net worth: $277 billion

Lived: 1459–1525

Nation: Holy Roman Empire

About: Jakob Fugger, also known as Jakob Fugger the Rich, was a German banker and businessman who owned extensive real estate, merchant fleets, and palatial establishments all throughout Europe. Fugger was so powerful and wealthy that he once loaned Charles V gold in order to secure his ascension as the Holy Roman Emperor. In exchange, Charles granted Fugger nobility, sovereign rights over his personal lands, and the ability to mint his own money. Fugger was a charitable man as well, building the famous Fuggeri Roman Catholic housing settlement that still stands to this day in Germany. In exchange for a daily prayer for Jakob Fugger and his descendents, dwellers are charged the same rent as they were in 1520 — just 1 Rhein guilder, or roughly $1.23.

6. John D. Rockefeller

Net worth: $374 billion

Lived: 1839–1937

Nation: United States

About: One of the great oil tycoons of history, John D. Rockefeller is the founder of the Standard Oil Trust. The trust was founded in 1870 in Cleveland, Ohio and quickly became an empire that refined over 90% of the world’s oil and employed over 100,000 people. The company became so powerful that the Supreme Court enforced the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1911, breaking the company into 34 different companies. Today, these companies include ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron.

5. Nathan Mayer Rothschild

Net worth: $450 billion

Lived: 1777–1836

Nation: United Kingdom

About: Born in Frankfurt in the late 18th century, Rothschild is most famous for being one of the founders of the international Rothschild family banking dynasty. Indeed, his father, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, is widely regarded as the father of international finance. With Rothschild’s great wealth came great power. Rothschild famously financed the war against Napoleon, created a monopoly on Mercury, and is rumored by conspiracy theorists to be one of the earliest members of the Illuminati.

4. Catherine the Great

Net worth: 1.5 trillion

Lived: 1729–1796

Nation: Russia

About: Coming to power after her husband, Peter III, was assassinated, Catherine the Great is perhaps one of the most powerful Russian leaders in history. Her vast empire gave her economic power equal to over $1.5 trillion, or about 5% of global GDP at the time. Famously generous and loyal to her lovers, Catherine once helped the father of one of her children, Stanislaw Poniatowski, assume the throne of Poland. It is worth noting, however, that disagreements between the two led to his abdication. Clearly, it was important to remain on the ruler’s good side.

3. Marcus Licinius Crassus

Net worth: $2 trillion

Lived: 115 BC — 53 BC

Nation: Roman Empire

About: Crassus is considered to be one of the wealthiest people in Roman history, with a net worth equal to that of the Roman treasury. He, alongside Gaius, Julius Caesar, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, comprised the First Triumvirate. In addition to being a general and politician, Crassus is speculated to be one of the first men in history to invent a private fire department. As buildings in ancient Rome would burn, Crassus would purchase them and his trained army of slaves would promptly put the fire out. If the owners refused to sell their property, Crassus would simply let it burn to the ground. It is rumored that upon Crassus’ death in battle, molten gold was poured down his throat to punish him for his greed.

2. Augustus Caesar

Net worth: $4.6 trillion

Lived: 63 BC — 14 AD

Nation: Roman Empire

About: At the height of Caesar’s power, it is estimated that the Roman Empire was responsible for roughly 25–35% of the world’s economic output. In an interview with Time Magazine, Stanford historian Ian Morris pointed out that at one point Augustus held personal wealth equal to one-fifth of his empire’s economy. Morris went on to add that, “for a while, Augustus personally owned all of Egypt.”

1. Mansa Musa

Net worth: Incalculable

Lived: 1280–1337

Nation: Mali

About: Mansa Musa is often described as the richest man to have ever lived. In fact, while Time Magazine could report the net worth of Caesar, Rockefeller, and others on this list, they could only write that Mansa Musa was “richer than anyone could describe”. Indeed, Musa was so wealthy that he famously gave gold to every man and woman who crossed his pilgrimage across North Africa to Mecca. This charity actually led to deflation in the price of gold that would last for the next 10 to 15 years. Shortly after his death, Musa’s nation was wrought with civil war and invaders. Within two generations his fortune was lost forever.

Originally published at Peeptrade.com.

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