The Lux List / Billionaires

Richest People of All Time: From Genghis Khan to Bill Gates and Cleopatra, these are the billionaires who ruled the world

These are 13 of the richest people of all time, as verified by Time magazine

Feb 13, 2016 | By Staff Writer

Ask anyone who the richest person of all time might be and more often than not, they would name Bill Gates. Having a similar query in mind, Time magazine decided to take up the challenge to find out just who holds the enviable title of being the richest person of all time. This of course resulted in extensive research, consultations with numerous experts from around the world and deep dives into archives that may very well have been long forgotten. The work and perseverance paid off as we now have the answer, which we have our own twist on. The list below covers 13 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 richest in the world, we update it every year…sometimes more than once.

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

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, the Mongolian leader comes in at the bottom of the 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.

Bill Gates ($78.9 Billion)bill_gates

We could not even imagine a list of the world’s richest without the Microsoft founder but he almost didn’t make it. Unlike the others, his position on the list and amassed wealth was relatively easy to determine so he is the only sure thing here. Gates may be the wealthiest man alive but he certainly has a long way to go if he wishes to top this list and it doesn’t look like he does.

Cleopatra ($95.8 Billion)

She may be well known for her tumultuous personal life that would have kept Gossip Girl busy but the ruler of ancient Egypt was also a master political manipulator. While her yearly income was capped at almost 2.6% of the global GDP, she borrowed heavily from foreign leaders, in order to wage wars and accommodate her lavish lifestyle.

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

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% of England’s GDP. On balance, in today’s terms, Alan the Red can be legitimately be considered one or the richest of all time.

John D. Rockefeller ($341 Billion)

John_D._Rockefeller_1885He 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% of America’s oil production. By 1918, he was estimated to be worth nearly 2% of U.S GDP. His wealth also includes the iconic Rockefeller Centre in the heart of New York City.

Andrew Carnegie ($372 Billion)

Andrew-CarnegieOriginally a Scottish immigrant, the steel magnate sold his company to J.P Morgan for $480 Million (2.1% 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 the Russian ruler amassed not only considerable wealth and land but also political power. With an empire valued at nearly 5% of the global GDP, the longest-reigning female Russian monarch certainly deserves a place among the elite.

Joseph Stalin ($7.5 Trillion)


Time 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% 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, one of whom she is 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 wealth of the country by trading tea and silk on the Silk Road and expanded the 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)EmperorShenzong_of_Song

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)Statue-Augustus-Caesar

To put the Roman Emperor’s wealth into perspective, imagine being in-charge of an empire that produced 25 – 30 % 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 concludes that he 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 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.

This story was written in-house, based on a report from Time Magazine. All images are from Wikipedia.

Back to top