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This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History

March 19, 2018 in History

By Thad Morgan

Mansa Musa on his way to Mecca. (Credit: Print Collector/Getty Images)

In the vast fictional universe of Marvel Comics, T’Challa, better known as Black Panther, is not only king of Wakanda, he’s also the richest superhero of them all. And although today’s fight for the title of wealthiest person alive involves a tug-of-war between billionaire CEOs, the wealthiest person in history, Mansa Musa, has more in common with Marvel’s first black superhero.

Musa became ruler of the Mali Empire in 1312, taking the throne after his predecessor, Abu-Bakr II, for whom he’d served as deputy, went missing on a voyage he took by sea to find the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Musa’s rule came at a time when European nations were struggling due to raging civil wars and a lack of resources. During that period, the Mali Empire flourished thanks to ample natural resources like gold and salt.

And under the rule of Musa, the prosperous empire grew to span a sizeable portion of West Africa, from the Atlantic coast to the inland trading hub of Timbuktu and parts of the Sahara Desert. As the territory grew while Musa was on the throne, so did the economic standing of its citizens.

It wasn’t until 1324 that the world outside of Mali’s border would get a glimpse of the king’s expansive wealth. A devout Muslim in a majority Muslim community, Musa set off on a journey to Mecca for his Hajj pilgrimage. But the king didn’t travel by himself.

Mansa Musa on his way to Mecca. (Credit: Print Collector/Getty Images)

The voyage, which would span an estimated 4,000 miles, was travelled by Musa and a caravan that included tens of thousands of soldiers, slaves and heralds, draped in Persian silk and carrying golden staffs. Although records of the exact number of people who participated in the voyage are scarce, the elaborate convoy that accompanied Musa marched alongside camels and horses carrying hundreds of pounds of gold.

Of course, this spectacle was noticed by residents of the territories that Musa passed through—after all, a group so massive was impossible to overlook. The impact the Malian emperor left on the Egyptian people would reverberate for more than a decade.

Arriving in Cairo, Musa’s character was put on full display during his reluctant encounter with Cairo’s ruler, al-Malik al-Nasir. According to texts from the ancient historian Shihab al-Umari, Musa was greeted in Cairo by a subordinate of al-Nasir, who invited …read more

Source: HISTORY

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