9. The Roman Republic’s Richest Man
Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) was one of the most prominent figures of the late Roman Republic, and its richest citizen. Crassus was a shrewd and avaricious businessman. An ally of the dictator Sulla in the 80s BC, he got his start on wealth by bidding on the confiscated properties of those executed as enemies of the state, and bought them in rigged auctions for a fraction of their value. He even arranged for the names of those whose properties he coveted to be added to the lists of enemies of the state, slated for execution and confiscation of property.
He used his wealth to sponsor politicians. They included Julius Caesar, whose political rise he bankrolled. Through them, Crassus amassed considerable power. He leveraged his wealth and power to create the First Triumvirate: a power-sharing agreement by which he, Pompey the Great, and Julius Caesar, divided the Roman Republic amongst themselves. Crassus thus seemed to have it all, but there was one thing that he lacked and that he desperately craved: military glory. His pursuit of such glory would invite karma to pay him an unwelcome visit, and lead to catastrophe.