Visualizing The Richest People In Human History (Part 1)

The Richest People in Human History (Up until the Industrial Revolution)

Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.

Attributable to: The Money Project, a collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals

When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.

For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires – while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.

This infographic focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution – and in the coming weeks, we will release a second version that covers wealth from then onwards (including figures like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jeff Bezos, etc.).

Is This List of People Definitive?

While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.

Here’s why:

Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.


Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa – these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.


Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.

So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun – and that the list of the wealthiest people in history changes depending on who you ask!


LadyMarmalade blueyefinity@y… (not verified) Sat, 07/29/2017 - 05:16 Permalink

Lol I'm guessing that the down votes were from the other handful of millennial gals who actually watch this website regularly? Haha I didn't downvote you, but I'm hoping to open your eyes a bit. My 3 best friends and I (who were born in 1982, so horrible millenials?) have all been in stable relationships for 10+ years. We're all married and have kids (with the men we married, so don't get excited) and work 40-70 hours/week. We're all fiercely loyal to our families and homes, and even if we make more than our husbands (most of us do), we still see our husbands as partners and do whatever we can to help them out. My husband taught me everything about engines and now I help him out in the garage as much as possible. I have more fun rebuilding a lawn mower nowadays than I do fixing system glitches. 

In reply to by blueyefinity@y… (not verified)

Benjamin123 Seasmoke Sat, 07/29/2017 - 04:49 Permalink

The time in between is school followed by work. The Rothschilds and Rockefellers work and perhaps go through a "wolf of wall street" phase when they are 21, but eventually get sick of Lamborghinis and supermodels, so they mostly get up at 5 am ready to spend 12 hours at the office getting ulcers as they run the world.

In reply to by Seasmoke

peopledontwanttruth Stuck on Zero Sat, 07/29/2017 - 05:39 Permalink

About King Solomon. Notice how much gold he brought in yearly.
Start connecting the dots with the 666 of Revelation. It's also mentioned in Chronicles. Even the Bible tells us, it's all about money or as Paul said "the love of money is the root of all evil"!

1 Kings 10:14
New International Version (NIV)

14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,[a]


1 Kings 10:14 That is, about 25 tons or about 23 metric tons

At his greediest point silver was nothing and he controlled all trade in everything

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

earleflorida peopledontwanttruth Sat, 07/29/2017 - 10:36 Permalink

The 'New Testament', ie., the christian bible, when (composed[?]/ propagandized by the Roman's???) written... goes way back, when in ~ 330[?] AD it was the Emporor's chosen pope[s] and clergy who took about its creation!Jesus Christ died ~ 33 AD... thus it took another three [plus] centuries to manifest the past?Most of the 'New Testament' was written/ quoted by 'Paul',... [whom], btw had never crossed paths with Jesus or perhaps wasn't living at the tyme when Jesus was actually preaching in the latter years of his short life! (~4-5 yrs. preaching to his apostles/ followers)      (note: use of Wikipedia site as quick research 'ONLY'!) 

In reply to by peopledontwanttruth

peopledontwanttruth Akzed Sat, 07/29/2017 - 14:35 Permalink

And Solomon who was given divine wisdom was the worst of them all. I have spoken to many people about 666, many interpretations out there with no scriptural backing. However going off the principle of the mouth of 2-3 witnesses from the Bible. Long before Rev 13, the Bible mentions twice 666 about Solomon's gold hoarding and all his greedy trading after his meeting with the queen of the south/Sheba. Apparently after his apostasy.
Most never realized that it is a man's number and it's in the Bible twice concerning Solomon.

Interesting times Akzed,

In reply to by Akzed

peopledontwanttruth Common_Law Sun, 07/30/2017 - 13:12 Permalink

They don't have to the preachers mention that enough in their sermons. Religion is a business. If you'd go back in the Bible you'd see it was money many times that Satan used against mankind to distort the truth. It's money that is the biggest god that's worshipped today thus why Christ said you can't serve God and money. This is where most people put their faith even the religious leaders. That's why the scripture says on God's Day people will be throwing it into the streets.
The Bible has warned us false teachers would arise only to get your money.

In reply to by Common_Law

DosZap peopledontwanttruth Sun, 07/30/2017 - 18:22 Permalink

It wasn't greed, it was WISDOM,that brought his wealth.He was told by GOD since he chose this above ALL else would be added unto him,also there was never one like him before,or to be after him ever again in human history(because he was asked what he wanted most, the wisdom to care/rule for HIS people, Yet,even He was a sinner,read Ecclesiastes to see his wisdom and sins,and his own conclusion.Silver was as common as stones in the streets of Israel during his realm.(that''s a hell of a lot of stones)

In reply to by peopledontwanttruth