Origins And Firsts In History

The first Millionaire in the World

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The term millionaire seems to vary in importance depending on the time in history. Consider today when the richest people in the world are billionaires, and there are so many millionaires that they cannot even be listed. Another consideration also has to be the currency in which a person is a millionaire, before the introduction of the Euro, I was a millionaire because I had a million Italian Lira in a currency account. That though meant that I had about GBP350. To look at the first millionaire for comparison it is then necessary to pick a standard currency, and the usual comparison is made in USD. The USD is of course a relatively new currency, and so to look at historical figures you then convert their wealth into USD, using an exchange rate based on their fortune as a proportion of their country's national Gross Domestic Product.

This may sound complicated but through some assumptions it is possible to come up with a list of the richest people of all time. It is actually a list that is compiled annually by the Forbes magazine. When this is done then the name of Marcus Licinius Crassus is often put forward as the world's first millionaire.

Crassus was one of the most interesting figures in Roman history and yet is often overlooked due to a younger member of the senate, one Gaius Julius Caesar.

Crassus amassed a huge fortune, part of which was inherited, although it was an inheritance that he had to fight to regain. Once he had regained his family's wealth he put it to good use and invested it in housing, mining and the slave trade. Money brought money and soon he was the richest man in Rome, at a time when Rome was the richest nation in the world. Money meant a lot in the political world of Rome and with money came power. His position on the senate was confirmed and he could gain the most powerful jobs, including the governing of areas of the Empire. Being governor of a wealth province would bring further riches.

Crassus is now most famous for two historical acts. Firstly he was the Roman general who put an end to the Spartacus revolt, although try not to mix history with fiction. The revolt was nothing like the film made it out to be. The second was his relationship with Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar at the time was an impoverished but aspiring member of Rome's political system. To get anywhere in Rome politics you needed money to run political campaigns, to buy votes and positions, and at each step on the political run you needed an even greater sum of money. Money that Crassus was willing to loan, it was a loan that promised of even greater returns.

Crassus had almost everything he wanted he had money and political power, he though strived for more money and a great military victory. Crassus had been given the province of Syria, the richest in the Roman Republic, but not satisfied he looked to conquer Parthia. Parthia was equally as wealthy but also seemed the best idea for the gaining of a great military victory; it was though a victory that Crassus could not achieve.

Parthia had a mobile fighting force and at the battle of Carrhae, the Roman army was defeated. Crassus was forced to seek terms of surrender but once in the Parthian camp he was killed. Crassus died at the age of 62, when he was his most powerful and also the richest. It was estimated that his personal fortune was in the region of two hundred million sesterces, a sum that equates to 181.3 Billion USD.

Crassus is now remembered as a money lender but even he knew that there was more to life than just money. Already the richest man in the world he looked for something that money could not buy, and died trying to achieve it. It was perhaps a stupid way to die, and unnecessary, and he could have lived out his life unable to spend his fortune, but it is heartening to think that there is more to life than just money.

There are historical figures that some may feel may well have a claim to being the world's first millionaire, and King Solomon is perhaps one example. If his fabled mines existed then surely he has a just claim. There are though no records to say how much he was worth and so cannot easily be classified or compared to other historical figures, and so the argument for Crassus as the first millionaire is easily argued.

More about this author: Tim Harry

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