Here goes for round two of the history of non-European figures who made a splash on the timeline. Oddly enough, these two are some that most people should have heard of. They both singlehandedly changed the course of history, and yet we know very little about either.
Musa I of Mali: The Golden King of Africa
The kingdom of Mali was successful, centered in Western Africa, it had access to both the gold and the salt trades. This lucky happenstance of geography and resources meant that Mali was loaded. The empire had enough money to outfit thousands of ships to send them into the Atlantic and explore (According to the Arabic historian who talks about this, the vast majority were swallowed by a whirlpool and the venture was abandoned). They had more money than nearly any other area in Africa, and certainly more money than large swathes of Europe. No king of Mali made that fact more clear than did Mansa Musa, the first of his name and the emperor of Mali from 1312-1337. Musa’s most famous moment was when he, a devout Muslim, made his Hajj to Mecca. The journey from West Africa to Saudi Arabia is rather difficult because of the Saharan Desert, which meant Musa took his escort and made the longer trip around the Sahara. His escort consisted of 48,000 men, 12,000 slaves, some 80 camels and his baggage. As is tradition for a Hajj, Musa began to give charitably as he journeyed. As an aside, all of his men were said to be wearing finest silks, each of the slaves was carrying a 4 pound bar of gold, some of the men had gold staves, and each camel had between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust. Adjusted for inflation (keep in mind, this was in 1320~) Musa’s total value is put at around $400 Billion. Making him, literally, bar none, the most wealthy person to have ever walked the Earth. As Musa traveled to Mecca, he supposedly built a Mosque every place he stayed on Fridays, and passed out gold like it was a cheap parade favor. He gave out so much gold that it totally devalued the price of gold around Egypt and caused a short spell of hyperinflation until he borrowed money from every moneylender he could find in the area to revalue the gold standard there. It made him the only person in history to ever have total control of the price of gold in the Mediterranean. Besides him being the richest thing to ever happen, his other importance in history? Musa’s gold trek sparked extreme fame and stories spread like wildfire. Europeans wishing to get in on the gold trade needed to find a way around the heavily Muslim North Africa, eventually leading to Henry the Navigator and the Genoans striving for a route around West Africa, and the European fingers in African affairs from then on.
Born likely around 1336, Timur was a minor noble in a Mongol tribe that had been “Turkicized”, he pictured himself as the next heir to Genghis Khan’s glorious legacy of destruction and empire. After a rough childhood, he sprung up in history around 1360 where he began a military career leading successful cavalry units for the Jagatai khans. It is thought that he gained his title Tamerlane around this time when he lost fingers on his right hand and took a sword hit to the right leg which left him crippled; or he got hit with arrows in the leg and hand when stealing sheep as a young man (no real way of knowing which was the case). Timur the lame, as Europeans called him, slowly became Tamerlane (The belief is the injury happened around 1363, because a Soviet archaeologist exhumed the body of Tamerlane and did an autopsy of it) Tamerlane fought for the Khans but was the true power behind the throne, until in 1369, when he took to the throne himself and began his conquest as the new Khan. For the next 25 years, Tamerlane raided and conquered. His armies ravaged Baghdad, Karbala and Moscow, he destroyed the Silk Road for an era, and he invaded Delhi and Egypt. Tamarlane practiced what we now call “information warfare” by sending spies out beyond his invading force to spread rumors about the cruelty and mercilessness of his armies. The rumors would sink in and moral of the enemy would have all but disappeared by the time his forces crested the horizon to attack. Even then, his rumors were not unfounded; thousands upon thousands of people were slaughtered by Tamerlane’s men, upwards of 5% of the world population was killed in his 25 years of conquest. On the 25th year of his conquests in 1404, he began a war with the Ming Dynasty in China and was moving his army to invade when fever struck him and he died at 68. Tamerlane’s empire fell with him, as they did not raid to form an empire, they raided to steal and pillage. There was no infrastructure, so when the warlord died, as did his kingdom. The man who once was feared beyond all other men, who killed nearly 1/20 of the world, died from a fever in 1405; his entire empire fell because it was too cold in Kazakhstan for a 68 year old khan.
Hopefully y’all learned something new, something cool or something different, like why you should never go near Russia any time after July.
Citations, Worth as much as Gold! Ish..:
Just So We’re Clear, Musa’s Escort Had Over 72,000 Pounds of Gold:
Tamerlane, History’s Forgotten Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: