In these times of Jeff Bozos, Elon Musk, Wall Street, Bill Gates, and Big Tech, it is hard to figure out a more booming time in history where wealth generation is of concern.
Strangely, Mansa Musa, The Golden King of Kings, has largely escaped Western historical perspective.
Many believe that Mansa Musa, ruler of the Mali Empire in the 14th century, was by far the wealhiest man ever.
Who was Mansa Musa?
Picture Credits: https://www.biographyicon.com/king-mansa-musa/
Munsa Musa, or Munsa I of Mali, ruled over the Kingdom of Mali from 1312 to 1337. He was born in 1280 into a dynasty of rulers.
Munsa took over the reins of Mali after the previous king, Abu Bakr II, his brother was lost at sea. Mansu Abu Bakr II abdicated the throne. He was haunted to find what lay beyond the Atlantic. So, heading a large fleet of 2000 ships, he set off to explore the Atlantic never to return.
Some historians such as the late Ivan Van Sertima, held the belief that Abu Bakr II reached South America. But there is no evidence to support this conjecture.
Getting back to Mansa Musa, under his rule the kingdom of Mali prospered significantly. He took over 24 cities, notably also Timbuktu.
The Mali Empire Under Mansa Musa (AD800-AD1550)
Mansa Musa’s empire extended for 2000 miles from the Atlantic to what is today Niger. His kingdom included parts of Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Ivory Coast.
Such huge lands yielded immense natural resources, significantly gold and salt.
Though Mali was home to gold untold, it was relatively unknown.
The next event transformed that considerably.
Mansa Musa’s Journey to Mecca
Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim. He decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca passing through the Sahara and Egypt onwards.
The King and entourage numbering 60,000 people set out. The caravan held his entire royal court, soldiers, officials, entertainers, camel drivers, merchants, 12,000 slaves, and a long train of sheep and goats for food on the passage. It was an entire city on the move. The inhabitants of this city down to the slaves were clad in the finest silks from Persia, and gold brocade.
A hundred camels followed, each laden with hundreds of pounds of pure gold.
What a spectacular sight it must have been to behold.
The opulence when the caravan reached Cairo peaked.
The Great Gold Crash Of Cairo
Mansa Musa stayed in Cairo for three months. So lavishly did he gift gold freely that the Egypt gold bourses plumetted never to recover for 12 years. The economy of Egypt was wrecked.
The US tech company SmartAsset.com pegs the loss of gold depreciation at that time at $1.5bn.
On his way back from Mecca, Mansa Musa passed again through Cairo. He supposedly tried to revive the economy by taking back the gold he so freely distributed, at extortionate rates from Egyptian lenders.
There exist many versions of how historians interpret this.
Education- Mansa Musa’s Goal
The achievement of the exhibition of excessive generosity that Mansa Musa displayed during his journey caught the attention of the world.
Mansa Musa put Mali and himself on the world map as depicted in this image from a Catalan Atlas of 1375.
Picture Credits: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47379458
Mansa Musa returned from Mecca with a large number of Islamic scholars, and an Andalusian poet and architect by the name of Abu Es Haq es Saheli who designed the famous Djinguereber mosque.
Mansa Musa reportedly paid him in gold, all of 440lbs (200kg) which would amount today to $8.2m.
Musa encouraged arts, architecture, funded the building of schools, libraries, mosques, and importanly, the advancement of literature.
Mansa Musa made Timbuktu a center of learning which attracted students from all over the globe. It is now the heart of the Sankore University.
Sadly, this liberal seat of learning went through a drastic transformation after the Moroccan invasion of Songhai in 1591. Scholastic texts were destroyed. It became Sankore Madrasa (Islamic school).
The rich king Mansa Musa passed on in 1337 at the age of 57. He did not die poor. He had laid a rich foundation of education in West Africa. He remains in oblivion as few know of his legacy. Alas!.
People remember villains, never heroes.
As Winston Churchill remarked, “History is written by victors.”
After Mansa Musa’s death, his sons could not hold the empire together. It splintered.
European wolves closed in. All seeking El Dorado.
An Interesting Addendum
The 10 richest men of all time
- Mansa Musa (1280-1337, king of the Mali empire) wealth indescribable
- Augustus Caesar (63 BC-14 AD, Roman emperor) $4.6tn (£3.5tn)
- Zhao Xu (1048-1085, emperor Shenzong of Song in China) wealth incalculable
- Akbar I (1542-1605, emperor of India’s Mughal dynasty) wealth incalculable
- Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919, Scottish-American industrialist) $372bn
- John D Rockefeller (1839-1937) American business magnate) $341bn
- Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov (1868-1918, Tsar of Russia) $300bn
- Mir Osman Ali Khan ( 1886-1967, Indian royal) $230bn
- William The Conqueror (1028-1087) $229.5bn
- Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011, long-time ruler of Libya) $200bn
Source: Money.com, Celebrity Net Worth
Go figure, Jeffy Boy.