While Elon Musk is currently the richest person on earth with an estimated net worth of about US$220 billion, his immense fortune pales in comparison to some of the richest people in history. Despite his astonishing net worth, his billions don’t even come close to the wealth of the richest people in history, proportionally speaking. In fact, the further we go back in time, the harder it is to put an accurate or fair figure on how relatively rich an individual was. Wealth was based on gold, land, salt, and power – and not all academics agree on the valuations. Throughout history, these many wealthy individuals fortunes would put today’s billionaires to shame
However, based on several sources and the work of numerous historians, we have compiled a list of the top 10 richest people to ever walk the earth – after factoring in inflation and the worth and value of commodities at the time if their wealth.
1. John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
John D. Rockefeller is considered one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. According to various sources, including Celebrity Net Worth, Rockefeller’s fortune would be worth around $340 billion in today’s money. The American business mogul and philanthropist established the Standard Oil Company in 1870, which controlled 90% of US refineries and pipelines by the early 1880s. Despite facing controversy for monopolizing the industry, Rockefeller also gave back to the community, donating approximately $500 million to educational, religious, and scientific causes through the Rockefeller Foundation.
2. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)
Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie, was a steel business magnate who amassed a fortune of around $372 billion (in today’s money) by leading the expansion of the American steel industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Carnegie eventually sold his Carnegie Steel Company in 1901 to JP Morgan for $480 million (in the currency of the day) and donated 90% of his earnings to philanthropic causes by the time of his death in 1919.
3. Catherine the Great (1729-1796)
As the longest-reigning female Russian monarch, Catherine the Great inherited and controlled a vast network of land, wealth, and political power after assuming the throne in 1762. According to Luxuo, her investments were worth 5% of Russian GDP, or the equivalent of $1.5 trillion in today’s money.
4. Augustus Caesar (63 BC-14 AD)
The founder of the Roman Empire, Augustus Caesar, was the first Roman emperor, and around a fifth of his empire’s wealth was his. The empire produced around 25 to 30% of the world’s global output, and around a fifth of that was his own personal wealth, according to Luxuo. This means he would have been worth around $4.6 trillion today.
5. Joseph Stalin (1878-1953)
Money.com claims that it’s almost impossible to separate Joseph Stalin’s wealth from the wealth of the Soviet Union. Economists believe that his complete control of the USSR makes him one of the richest people to have ever lived. During his time as General Secretary, Stalin controlled Soviet assets worth around $7.5 trillion in today’s money.
6. Akbar I (1542-1605)
Akbar I was the third Mughal emperor of India, who inherited an already vast empire and expanded it even further and his reign is considered one of the most prosperous periods in the country’s history. He is said to have controlled around 25% of the global economy during his reign. He accumulated vast amounts of wealth through his reign, through trade, land holdings, and a collection of precious objects including the Peacock Throne. Akbar I was the wealthiest person of his time, and his wealth is estimated to be around $21 trillion in today’s money.
7. Emperor Shenzong (1048-1085)
Emperor Shenzong, also known as Zhao Xu, was the sixth emperor of the Song Dynasty in China. He is said to have had a fortune worth around 30% of China’s GDP during his reign. Emperor Shenzong was one of the wealthiest individuals in history, with an estimated net worth of US$30 trillion in today’s money, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
8. Mansa Musa (1280-1337)
Mansa Musa was the tenth Mansa, which translates to “sultan” or “emperor,” of the wealthy West African Mali Empire in the 14th century. According to Celebrity Net Worth, his fortune was estimated to be $400 billion in today’s money. His wealth was derived from Mali’s vast reserves of gold and salt, which were the basis of the empire’s thriving trade with Europe and the Middle East. He is known for his extravagant spending, including a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 where he reportedly gave away so much gold that the value of the precious metal in Egypt was devalued for years to come. Mansa Musa, emperor of Mali, is widely considered to be the richest person in history.
9. William the Conqueror (1028-1087)
The first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror is said to have been worth around 1.5% of England’s economy during his reign. According to Money.com, this would be the equivalent of around $229.5 billion in today’s currency.
10. Jakob Fugger (1459-1525)
Jakob Fugger, also known as “Jakob the Rich”, was a prominent German merchant and banker during the Renaissance era. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he is believed to have had a fortune worth around $400 billion in today’s currency. Fugger’s wealth was mainly derived from mining and trade, but he was also involved in banking, and was considered to be one of the most powerful men in Europe during his lifetime.