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The 10 Richest Men in History

Summary:
If someone were to ask you “who is the richest man of all time,” the name Bill Gates or Warren Buffett might pop into your head. Although those men are exceedingly wealthy, they are far from the top 10. The richest of the rich belong in a separate cl...

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If someone were to ask you “who is the richest man of all time,” the name Bill Gates or Warren Buffett might pop into your head. Although those men are exceedingly wealthy, they are far from the top 10. The richest of the rich belong in a separate club than the rest. It is a club for men who have built legendary amounts of wealth and monumental legacies. Here is a list of the top 10 wealthiest men in human history!

10 Cornelius Vanderbilt

The 10 Richest Men in History

Photo via Wikimedia

Born to an impoverished farmer and boatman in May 1794, Cornelius Vanderbilt is a true rags-to-riches story. At the young age of 11, Vanderbilt quit school to work on a ferrying cargo. According to legend, by age 16, Vanderbilt was running a two-mast sailing vessel. By 18, he was contracted to the United States government to supply outposts in the War of 1812. By the end of the war, he had learned the art of shipbuilding, had a small fleet of boats under his control, and had working capital of $10,000.

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Over the next decade, Vanderbilt gained control of the Hudson River traffic through his luxurious ships and cheap fares. From there, he extended his transportation business to the New York, Providence, and Boston Railroad. By 1846, Vanderbilt was a millionaire.

By the 1850s, Vanderbilt’s attention was on the railroads, and by 1863, he owned the New York and Harlem Railroads. However, he did not stop there. Vanderbilt later purchased the Hudson River Railroad and New York Central Railroad which allowed him to offer the first rail service from New York to Chicago.

In 1877, at 83 years old, Vanderbilt passed away due to complications with his health. Today, it is estimated that Cornelius Vanderbilt was worth—if calculating his fortune with the GDP of 1877—nearly $165 billion.

9 Basil II

The 10 Richest Men in History

Photo via Wikimedia

Basil II (aka Basil the Bulgar Slayer) was the Byzantine emperor for 49 years. Son of Romanus II, he was crowned co-emperor in 960 BC. As Basil II rose to power, his main focus was extending his imperial authority both at home and abroad. He forced troops to march across Asia Minor and secured land in Georgia and Armenia.

Best known for his persistent and successful campaigns, he centered his work in Macedonia and eventually expanded the Byzantine Empire to the largest it had been in five centuries. Although Basil’s fortune exceeded $168 billion in today’s dollars, he had no heir. Upon his death, the Byzantine Empire crumbled within half a century.

8 Marcus Licinius Crassus

The 10 Richest Men in History

Photo credit: Diagram Lajard

Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who not only transformed the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire but accumulated a rather large fortune during his lifetime. Born to a wealthy senator, Crassus was brought up in an upper-class lifestyle. He later married his deceased brother’s wife, which provided an alliance between Sulla and Rome.

It was at this time that Crassus the businessman began to acquire his fortune. He bought the homes and belongings of the Sulla citizens for dirt cheap and then resold them for a high profit. He also brought in a hefty profit from buying and selling slaves that worked in the family-owned silver mines. At the end of his life in 53 BC, Crassus had a net worth of almost $170 billion.

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