The Richest Man in Babylon introduces the reader to the secrets of wealth, as used by the ancient civilisations of the world. It deals with finances, how to plan financially for your life, and how to deal with your own personal wealth and how that affects your life.
Babylon is one of the most well-known cities of all time – it is known throughout history for being a hugely wealthy and influential city, yet one that was destroyed and has not risen. All Babylon’s riches were self-made – the city did not have the natural resources that one would expect a city so rich to have, but through the wisdom of its rulers it rose above these constraints to become a rich empire, one that has never been forgotten by history.
The Richest Man In Babylon Summary
Chapter 1 tells us the story of Kobbi and Bansir. Bansir is bemoaning his type of existence – always working so hard yet never having any riches to show for it. The two talk about how much gold they had earned so hard over the years, and how they still did not have any gold of their own, as it had all been spent just so they could live. They discuss how they had both hoped that they may one day come into riches, yet this had never happened to them. They both reach the depths of misery while talking about this, and in this miserable state, they make a plan. They decide to approach one of their childhood friends, Arkad, who made the boast of being ‘The Richest Man in Babylon.’ They talk about how maybe there is a secret that they can learn from him on how to acquire wealth and riches. They are struck with an epiphany- that maybe the reason they have not yet acquired riches is because they have not actively set out to do so. Kobbi states that one day he decided to become a successful lyre player and this he did, so if the men set out to become rich and wealthy, surely they can do this too?
In this chapter, Kobbi and Bansir meet up with Arkad. Arkad tells Kobbi and Bansir that the reason they have failed to accumulate wealth may be because they have failed to observe the laws that govern wealth, or may be because if they know these laws, they have failed to follow them. He told them that when he was younger he had done a job for a moneylender who was rich, and he had asked this man for advice. This man was called Algamish, and he told Arkad to save at least a tenth of the gold he earnt and to let this copper work for him to help him generate riches. Arkad did this and gave this money to a bricklayer so the bricklayer could invest in some precious jewels.
However these jewels prove to be worthless, and Arkad once again seeks the advice of Algamish. Algamish told him that he has learnt a valuable lesson – and to invest his money wisely. Arkad went away and this time loaned his money to a shield maker who paid interest on the savings, but Arkad used this interest to hold feasts. Algamish told him that if he was spending his money on feasts, it wasn’t able to earn more money for him. After 2 years Algamish was pleased with the lessons that Arkad had learnt, and told him that he had done well – he had learned to live on less money than he earned, that he had sought advice from those wiser than him and that he had learnt how to make his money work for him and be his slave. Arkad was pleased with what Algamish had said, and he told Kobbi and Bansir this whole story so that they too might learn. Some of the group who had been listening to Arkad with Kobbi and Bansir understood what he was saying, and some walked away with no greater understanding.
In this chapter, King Sargon is worried about the city as it is getting poorer and he seeks the advice of Arkad. Arkad tells the King his own story and teaches the King the 7 secrets for a lean purse. These 7 secrets are:
Start Thy Purse to Fattening – Save at least 10% of your income
Control Thy Expenditures – Budget what you will need to buy based on 9/10s of your income
Make Thy Gold Multiply – Make sure that your money is working for you
Guard Thy Treasures from Loss – Ensure that you are investing in safe ventures, and ask for advice from wise people about how to invest
Make of Thy Dwelling a Profitable Investment – Own your own home
Insure a Future Income – Provide in advance for your own getting older and looking after your family
Increase Thy Ability to Earn – Always seek to learn more and become wiser, which will help you financially
Arkad finishes this lecture to the King by encouraging him to teach his subjects about this so that they could all be wealthy.
In this chapter, Arkad is addressing the King’s chosen 100. He is talking about luck, as he is asked if it possible to encourage luck in life as everybody harbours a desire to be lucky. Arkad starts by talking about gambling – he says that while it unlikely yet possible to win a large amount of money in this way, he wonders whether this way of earning money really will bring good fortune with that money. He says he knows not a single rich man who has started being rich in this way. He says that his view is that good luck instead comes to people who do not procrastinate but instead accept opportunities when they come their way. He says that those who hesitate and procrastinate and fail to take opportunities do not attract good luck, but people who are willing to jump into opportunities are favoured by the goddess of good luck. Arkad once again reiterates to the men that they should invest at least 1/10 of what they earn.
Here Old Kalabab is asking his group of men what they would choose if there were offered either a large bag of gold or a tablet inscribed with wisdom. All of them choose the gold – but Old Kalabab says that this is what wild dogs would do – feed today without worrying about tomorrow. Old Kalabab tells his men about a man called Nomasir, who is Arkad’s son. Nomasir was given gold and wisdom by his father, to prove that he could be trusted with money. Nomasir returned 10 years later to claim his father’s estate as he had been promised, and told his father how at first he had lost the gold, but then used the wisdom to make his own fortune. Nomasir told Old Kalabab the 5 laws of gold that his father had taught him.
Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of wise men in its handling.
Gold slippeth away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keeping.
Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who followeth the advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.
Nomasir eventually followed these laws and soon had riches beyond expectation. Old Kalabab tells his men this, so that they may learn from it.
Rodan the spear maker here finds himself with 50 pieces of gold. He seeks advice from Mathon the Gold Lender, as he does not know what he should do with it. Mathon tells Rodan about the types of loans that he can give people. Some of these are based on property, some are based on income and some are based on the guarantees of friends and family. Mathon tells Rodan how he chooses who to lend his money to, and Rodan asks if he should consider lending some of his gold to his brother in law Araman, who wants to borrow some to start himself off as a trader and make his riches. Mathon advises Rodan against this, and says that if he were asked by Araman to borrow gold, he would not consider doing so as he feels the gold would not be safe with Araman– he says to Rodan “Better a little caution than a great regret.”
Banzar was a warrior who guarded the passageway to Babylon. Banzar was the first person to tell of news when the city was besieged, we find Banzar holding counsel during an attack on Babylon. Many of the villagers are asking Banzar for news, and Banzar consoles each of them in the personal way that they needed to hear. Banzar kept guard day and night and watched the enemies of Babylon try to break into the city. After 3 weeks and 5 days, the defences of the city proved how good they were and the attackers were defeated. Banzar keeps watch over all of this, and when the enemies are defeated he uses this to prove to the citizens who had been asking for counsel from him that he had been proved correct, and that Babylon had been strong enough to withstand the force of all the armies of the enemy. Banzar uses this to illustrate the strength of the city, and also the following message to the citizens – “we cannot afford to be without adequate protection.”
Here we come across the story of Tarkad. Tarkad owes money to a great number of people and has not eaten for two days. He comes across a friend of his, a camel trader named Dabasir. Dabasir asks for the money he is owed by Tarkad, and takes Tarkad to a place to eat where he orders himself a goat leg and Tarkad a jug of water. Dabasir tells Tarkad of the time he used to be a slave in Syria.Dabasir had many debts, and he told Tarkad that no man who did not repay money could ever respect himself, so in effect, he gave himself the soul of a slave. He told how he had run from Babylon away from his debts after he had made wrong decisions about money, and how eventually he was captured and taken as the slave of a Syrian. The wife of the man who owned him took pity upon him and gave him the opportunity to escape. He took camels and ran out of Syria and into the desert. While he was exiled and in the desert, near to death, he had an epiphany. His debts may have been his enemies but he had true friends in Babylon who he wanted to repay. He returned to Babylon and stood up to the people he owed money to, and begged them to be patient while he worked. The money lender Mathon helped him to find a job tending camels, and he worked hard and repaid all his debts. He tells all this to Tarkad and he can see what a difference his words have made to Tarkad, and knows that Tarkad wants to follow his example and work to get himself out of debt. When he sees this, he orders food for himself and Tarkad. Dabasir claims that ‘where the determination is, the way can be found.’
Here the five tablets that contain the secret to wealth are discovered in Mesopotamia, five thousand years after they were written. Alfred Shrewsbury, an archaeologist, reported the findings on the tablets to Professor Franklin Caldwell. This chapter deals with the letter that he wrote, and what the tablets contained. The tablets told the story of Dabasir’s return to Babylon and the plan that he followed to repay his debts and start his life over again. Alfred writes to Professor Caldwell and tells him that he and his wife have started to follow the lessons detailed in the tablets, and even though the tables were thousands of years old he found the lessons helped him in life, and he says that “There is more pleasure in running up a surplus than there could be in spending it.”
Here we meet Sharru Nada, who is travelling with the grandson of his partner, Hadan Galu. Sharru tells Hadan that he was once a slave and that he counted himself as hugely lucky as he was sold to a baker, and he was so happy to be able to learn the trade of a baker. He told Hadan that his grandfather had also been a slave, but who was close to buying his freedom. When Sharru and Arad, Hadan’s grandfather, met next, Arad had been freed and Sharru had been sold to another master. Arad bought Sharru’s freedom, and this story touches Hadan’s heart. Hadan from that moment on decides that work truly is the only key needed to his future successes.
I hope you enjoyed this short The Richest Man In Babylon summary. If you would like to read the full book which I recommend you do, you can pick it up used from Amazon for about $1 + shipping.