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Mansa Musa: Definition, Facts & Biography

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  • 0:04 Who Was Mansa Musa?
  • 1:06 Journey to Mecca
  • 2:34 Legacy
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Who was the richest man in history? Was it Rockefeller or Bill Gates? Neither! In this lesson, you will learn about Mansa Musa, the fourteenth-century African king whose immense wealth was rumored throughout Europe and Asia.

Who Was Mansa Musa?

When you think of the word 'king,' what comes to mind? A jolly looking man with a crown, sitting on a throne? Maybe someone who lives in a castle? How about a powerful and wealthy ruler? Maybe just a creepy mascot for a fast food burger chain? Mansa Musa did not necessarily fit into an idealized picture of a king, but in reality, he was the wealthiest and perhaps one of the most powerful kings in the history of the world. Adjusted for inflation, Mansa Musa's estimated worth was over $400 billion.

Born sometime around the year 1280 C.E., Mansa Musa served as king of the Kingdom of Mali, located in Western Africa. The word mansa means king, so think of him as 'King Musa.' Mansa Musa was a lucky guy; not only was he the king, he was the king of a vast empire that contained large and very productive gold mines. He ascended to the throne in the year 1307 and went on to take the world by storm.

Journey to Mecca

Mansa Musa was a very devout Muslim, or follower of the religion of Islam. In 1324, as a part of his religious commitments, Mansa Musa went on the hajj, which is a journey to Mecca, the site of Muslim holy devotion. To get to Mecca, Mansa Musa left his home in Niani and traveled over rough terrain through deserts and mountains. But don't think for a second that he didn't make his journey in style! The king brought with him over 60,000 men in total, one fifth of which were slaves. This was the ultimate fourteenth century entourage. Not only was Mansa Musa dripping with gold, but so were his slaves. Along with countless people, gifts, and animals, Mansa Musa brought along over 300 pounds of solid gold. By today's prices, 300 pounds of gold comes out to roughly $5.4 million; enough to buy yourself a small island with some money left over! This, however, was just pocket money for Mansa Musa.

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