Musa I (c. 1280 – c. 1337), or Mansa Musa, was the tenth Mansa (a military title meaning “conqueror” or “emperor”) of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state. He has been described as the wealthiest individual of the Middle Ages and of all of human history.
At the time of Musa’s ascension to the throne, Mali in large part consisted of the territory of the former Ghana Empire, which Mali had conquered. The Mali Empire consisted of land that is now part of Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia and the modern state of Mali. During his reign, Musa held many titles, such as “Emir of Melle”, “Lord of the Mines of Wangara”, and “Conqueror of Ghanata”.
Musa conquered 24 cities, along with their surrounding districts. During Musa’s reign, Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world, and Musa has been considered one of the wealthiest historical figures. However, modern commentators such as Time magazine have concluded that there is no accurate way to quantify Musa’s wealth.
Musa is generally referred to as “Mansa Musa” in Western manuscripts and literature. His name also appears as “Kankou Musa”, “Kankan Musa”, and “Kanku Musa”. Other names used for Musa include “Mali-Koy Kankan Musa”, “Gonga Musa”, and “the Lion of Mali”. He was a patron of science, the arts, literature and architecture and the empire flourished culturally during his reign.