Marcus Licinius Crassus is probably best known as one third of the First Triumvirate, the other two thirds being Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (or Pompey as he is usually known to English speakers).

But before that Marcus Licinius Crassus was famous for being the richest man in Rome in the first century BCE.

One might call him a real estate developer. One might call him many things, but let’s stick with real estate developer.

When Sulla was still dictator of Rome he made lists of proscribed families (i.e., his enemies lists) whose property was auctioned off at greatly reduced rates. Crassus took advantage of these lists by buying those properties at the reduced prices and making a profit by either renting them out or reselling, but also by adding the name of at least one man whose wealth Crassus coveted. What a wily man he was!

With those profits he managed to amass something like 500 slaves, and as Rome had no fire department as such, he set up his own fire brigade. Most dwellings in Rome were made of wood, so fires were a daily occurrence; on hearing of a fire, or seeing the smoke, he’d have his slaves drive what passed for a firetruck in those days to the scene of the fire, and then Crassus would negotiate with the owner of the building to purchase it—at a rock bottom price.

If he successfully concluded a purchase, he’d have his slaves put out the fire, otherwise he’d let the building burn to the ground. 

Those buildings that he purchased, he’d repair or rebuild, and then rent out at the going rate, thus increasing his wealth.

Of course, modern day real estate developers don’t use tricks like that to build their wealth. Do they?

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