July 24, 2024

Marco Polo was an Italian (Venetian) vendor, pilgrim and author brought into the world in Venice in 1254. He was naturally introduced to a rich gem trader family – Niccolo Polo (his dad) and his mom Nicole Anna Defuseh who passed on when Marco was youthful. In 1266 Marco’s dad and uncle Maffeo left for China to begin an exchanging business, abandoning Marco. Marco initially dared to China when he was 17 going with his dad and uncle. The excursion required four years. He remained for a very long time filling in as a helper and consultant to Kublai Khan and going through Asia expounding on what he saw. Marco got back to Venice and a couple of years after the fact he was captured when Venice did battle with Genoa. It was during his prison time that the book The Travels of Marco Polo were composed.

In 1300 he married Donata Badoer.

Kublai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan, a great conqueror. Kublai Khan was the Mongol leader (when Niccolo and Marco’s uncle made their first trip to China) and had asked Marco’s father and uncle to petition the Pope to send 100 priests to Beijing.

Marco polo was released from prison in 1299.

The Pope denied the request but Niccolo and his Marco’s uncle took Marco back to China with them on their return trip.

He dictated his book to another prisoner, Rustichello da Pisa, who was an Italian romance writer. Rustichello became the co-author of Marco’s book.

To reach China, Marco, his father and his uncle had to travel through Armenia, Persia, Afghanistan, the Pamir Mountains, and then the Gobi Desert.

His father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo went to China in 1266 to set up a trading business. Marco did not go with them.

Kublai Khan made Niccolo and Maffeo part of his court and liked Marco so much that he eventually made him governor of a Chinese city, a tax inspector and gave him a seat on his Privy Council.

Both his father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo were wealthy jewel merchants.

Kublai Khan’s summer palace was called Xanadu. Marco Polo called Xanadu ‘the greatest palace that ever was.’

Marco Polo was a major influence on other explorers, including Christopher Columbus.

While in China, Marco, Niccolo and Maffeo gained many riches of gold and jewels.

Marco Polo’s route became largely impassable after his return to Venice.

When they decided to return to Venice after 17 years Kublai Khan was not happy. He didn’t stop them from leaving but asked them to escort a princess to Persia, where she was to marry a Persian Prince.

The Polos lost much of their fortune while returning home.

600 members of the crew died on the way to Persia. Only 18 people arrived in Persia alive. The prince had died before they arrived and the Polos had to stay in Persia until a suitable husband for the princess was found.

The Polos were only allowed to leave the Great Kahn’s realm in 1292, when they agreed to escort a Mongol princess to Persia by sea.

A few years after returning to Venice, the city went to war against Genoa and Marco became the commander of a ship.

Marco’s ship was captured and he was arrested.

Marco Polo was among the first Europeans to describe many of the advanced technologies found in China.

While in prison he dictated his stories of adventures to a writer named Rustichello. The original books were in French.

Marco Polo mistook some of the animals he saw for mythical creatures.

Marco’s book was very successful but some people did not believe his stories and called his book The Million Lies.

Marco Polo spent much of his journey as an envoy for the Mongol ruler Kublai Kahn.

Marco eventually started a business, got married and had three daughters.

Marco Polo barely knew his father and uncle when they began their expedition.

Historians have been able to verify that much of what was written in Marco Polo’s book as being true, although there are those that believe he made it all up.

Marco Polo was not the first European to travel to Asia.

It is believed that Christopher Columbus took a copy of Marco Polo’s book with him on his voyage in 1492.

Marco Polo’s famous travelogue was penned in prison.

Marco Polo died in 1324.

Frequently Asked Questions about Marco Polo:

  1. Who was Marco Polo and what is he famous for?

Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant and explorer who lived from 1254 to 1324. He is most famous for his travels to Asia, documented in a book known as “The Travels of Marco Polo” or “Il Milione” (The Millions). His detailed accounts of the wonders of the East, including China, introduced Europeans to previously unknown cultures, landscapes, and inventions.

  1. Did Marco Polo really travel to China?

There is some debate among historians about the exact extent of Marco Polo’s travels. While some believe he may have embellished certain details, there’s strong evidence he did spend a significant amount of time in China.

Here’s what supports his journey:

  • Accuracy of his descriptions: His descriptions of Chinese cities, customs, and inventions like paper money and gunpowder were remarkably accurate for the time, suggesting firsthand experience.
  • Verification of specific details: Modern scholars have identified locations and landmarks he described, supporting his claims of travel.

While the exact route and all his experiences may be debated, it’s widely accepted that Marco Polo did reach China and his accounts significantly broadened European knowledge of Asia.

  1. What impact did Marco Polo’s travels have?

Marco Polo’s book sparked immense interest in the East, influencing European exploration, trade, and even literature. Here’s how his travels impacted the world:

  • Age of Exploration: His descriptions of Asia inspired future explorers like Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama, contributing to the Age of Exploration.
  • Trade routes: His accounts provided valuable information about trade routes and potential markets in Asia, stimulating trade between Europe and the East.
  • Cultural exchange: The book offered a window into Eastern cultures, fostering some understanding of customs and traditions vastly different from Europe.
  • Literary influence: Marco Polo’s adventures sparked a fascination with travel narratives, influencing writers and shaping the genre of travel literature.
  1. What are some criticisms of Marco Polo’s accounts?

Some historians have questioned the accuracy of certain details in “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Here are some criticisms:

  • Embellishment: There may be some exaggeration and embellishment of certain events and descriptions, possibly to make the narrative more captivating.
  • Lack of details: He doesn’t mention some well-known aspects of Chinese culture, like chopsticks or the Great Wall, leading some to question his firsthand experience.

Despite these criticisms, Marco Polo’s “Travels” remains a valuable historical document offering a glimpse into a world unknown to Europeans at the time.

  1. What is Marco Polo’s legacy?

Marco Polo’s legacy is multifaceted. He is remembered as:

  • A pioneering explorer: His journey to Asia opened doors for further exploration and trade.
  • A chronicler: His detailed accounts preserved knowledge of Eastern cultures for future generations.
  • A symbol of cultural exchange: His work bridged the gap between Europe and Asia, fostering understanding between vastly different worlds.

Marco Polo’s impact extended far beyond his own lifetime, shaping the course of exploration, trade, and cultural exchange for centuries to come.

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