Business / Billionaires

Richest People of All Time: From Genghis Khan To Elon Musk, These Are the Billionaires Who Ruled the World

These are 12 of the richest people of all time.

Mar 15, 2021 | By Joseph Low

Ask anyone who the richest person of all time might be and more often than not, they would name Jeff Bezos, CEO of the e-commerce giant, Amazon. Having a similar query in mind, we decided to take up the challenge to find out who takes the elusive title of being the richest person of all time.

The work and perseverance paid off as we now have the answer, which we have put our own twist. This revised list, as of 2022, below covers 12 individuals, combining both genders, based as far as possible on wealth as represented by current GDP standards. If you’re looking for the current list of the richest women in the world, or the top 10 richest LGBTQ people in the world, we have also updated it.

Genghis Khan (Lots of land)

By unknown / (of the reproduction) National Palace Museum in Taipei - Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, Wikipedia

An example of how wealth cannot be limited to monetary value is the Mongolian leader at the bottom of this exclusive list. His claim to glory? It happens to be the vast amounts of land he owned from his rule over what would become the world’s largest contiguous empire. An admirable quality about the formidable ruler was that he built no palace, temple or tomb, unlike other wealthy rulers of his time.

Alan Rufus a.k.a Alan the Red ($194 Billion)

The nephew of William the Conqueror, Alan the Red joined his uncle in the Norman Conquest. Upon his death, he is believed to have had a mere £11,000 to his name; however, this amounted to nearly 7 per cent of England’s GDP. On balance, in today’s terms, Alan the Red can legitimately be considered one of the richest of all time.

Elon Musk ($219 Billion)

elon musk

As a serial tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk is named as the “richest man in modern history” by Forbes. His two companies, Tesla and SpaceX have been at the forefront of innovation and overtook Jeff Bezos, who was previously on this list. Musk is looking to buy out Twitter, a move that will further strength his position and enlarge his influence within the tech world.

John D. Rockefeller ($341 Billion)

He first built his wealth in 1863 by investing in the petroleum industry at the age of 27. Two decades later, his company was in control of 90 per cent of America’s oil production. By 1918, he was estimated to be worth nearly 2 per cent of U.S GDP. His wealth also includes the iconic Rockefeller Centre in the heart of New York City.

Andrew Carnegie ($372 Billion)

Originally a Scottish immigrant, the steel magnate sold his company to J.P Morgan for $480 Million (2.1 per cent of U.S GDP). In terms of 2014, this makes Carnegie richer than Rockefeller by a little bit over $31 billion, though they are on a level playing field in terms of iconic buildings bearing their name. Carnegie Hall anyone?

Catherine the Great ($1.5 Trillion)

She assumed power after her husband’s assassination in 1762, and from then on, the Russian ruler amassed considerable wealth, land and political power. With an empire valued at nearly 5 per cent of the global GDP, the longest-reigning female Russian monarch certainly deserves a place among the elite.

Joseph Stalin ($7.5 Trillion)

Time magazine stated that it was difficult to differentiate between the wealth of the dictator and that of the Soviet Union. This is simply because his control of the USSR was so complete that he was able to leverage the country’s economic might for any reason he saw fit. Three years before his death, USSR made up nearly 9.5 per cent of the global GDP, making it one of the richest nations in the world.

Empress Wu (22.7% GDP)


Rising from the ranks as the concubine of two Chinese emperors is no easy feat. Her ruthlessness and desire for power, even extended to her children, whom she was reported to have killed as an infant, to depose the main consort of the King — in short, she would have put Cercsi Lannister to shame. She built the country’s wealth by trading tea and silk on the Silk Road and expanding Imperial China into central Asia.

Akbar I (25% GDP)

He was said to be one of the greatest emperors of India’s Mughal dynasty, accounting for a quarter of the global GDP. With an effective empire that gained its profits by extracting wealth from its population, the Mughal dynasty wealth was said to rival that of Elizabethan England.

Emperor Shenzong (25 – 30% global GDP)

Clearly, we are stepping into the big league here with our top three. Our third in line to the crown of richest people of all time is Chinese Emperor Shenzong. As the leader of China’s economically powerful Song Dynasty, Emperor Shenzong held considerable control over the economy. A main source of its wealth came from technological innovations and tax collection that were ahead of its time.

Augustus Caesar ($4.6 Trillion)

Augustus Caesar, also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated a legacy as one of the greatest leaders in human history.

To put the Roman Emperor’s wealth into perspective, imagine being in-charge of an empire that produced 25-30 per cent of the world’s economic output. Now imagine having one-fifth of that amount as your personal wealth. As if that wasn’t enough, Stanford professor Ian Morris concluded that Caesar personally owned all of Egypt, for a while.

Mansa Musa (Richer than anyone could describe)Mansa_Musa

The top of our list is none other than Mansa Musa. You know you’ve made it when no one can describe how rich you are. The King of Timbuktu from the 14th century presided over what was the largest producer of gold in the world, when gold was in high demand. The best description that has been given is in the form of pictures that depict him holding a sceptre of gold, on a throne of gold, holding a cup of gold with a golden crown.

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