Explorer

Marco Polo

Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant and explorer who traveled from Europe to Asia in 1271–1295 and remaining in China for 17 of those years. Polo travels are recorded in “The Travels of Marco Polo” which describes his voyage to and experiences in Asia. The Italian title of his book was “Il Libro di Marco Polo detto il Milione” which means “The Book of Marco Polo” nicknamed “Milione”.

Early Life:

Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254. His father Niccolò Polo left Marco’s mother, when she was pregnant, to travel to Asia with his brother Maffeo Polo. Much of Marco’s childhood was spent parentless. Marco’s mother died when he was young. On their arrival there, Niccolò Polo found that his wife was dead and that she had left behind her a son of fifteen years of age, whose name was Marco. After, Marco Polo’s mother died, an aunt and uncle raised him. His grandfather, Andrea Polo had three sons: Marco “the older”, Matteo & Niccolò (Marco’s father). Marco’s received a good education, learning mercantile subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships.His father later married Floradise Polo.

In 1271 father, son, and uncle left Venice and sailed to Acre and later rode on their camels to the Persian port Hormuz.

Image Source - Google | Image by – Fototeca Storica Nazionale/Getty Images

Journeys/Voyages:

Marco stories about his travels in Asia were published as a book called The Description of the World, also known as ‘The Travels of Marco Polo.’

According to The Travels of Marco Polo, they passed through much of Asia and met with Kublai Khan, a Mongol ruler and founder of the Yuan dynasty. Their decision to leave Constantinople proved timely. Impressed by Marco’s intelligence and humility, Khan appointed him to serve as his foreign emissary to India & Burma. As part of this appointment, Marco travelled extensively inside China, living in the emperor’s lands for 16- 17 years. Kublai initially refused several times to let the Polos return to Europe, as he appreciated their company and Polo became useful to him. However, around 1291, he finally granted permission, entrusting the Polos with his last duty, accompany the Mongol princess Kököchin, who was to become the consort of Arghun Khan, in Persia. After leaving the princess, the Polos traveled overland to Constantinople. They later decided to return to their home in Venice in 1295 (around after 24 years), with many riches & treasures.

Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1295 with his fortune converted into gemstones. After returning to Venice from China, he commanded a ship in a battle against the rival city of Genoa. He was eventually captured and sentenced to a Genoese prison, where he met a fellow prisoner and writer named Rustichello. they became friends, Polo told Rustichello about his time in Asia, what he’d seen, where he’d traveled, and what he’d accomplished. The book made Polo famous. It was printed in French, Italian, and Latin, becoming the most popular read in Europe. But few readers allowed themselves to believe Polo’s tale. They took it to be fiction, the construct of a man with a wild imagination. The work eventually earned another title: Il Milione (“The Million Lies”). It influenced later adventurers and merchants.

Death:

In 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness and after died at his home in Venice on January 8, 1324. To write and certify the will, his family requested Giovanni Giustiniani, a priest of San Procolo. His wife Donata, and his three daughter’s were appointed by him as co-executrices. A famous story relates how Polo was asked on his deathbed to retract the “fables” he had invented in his book then he answered that he told barely half of what he saw. Marco’s story has inspired countless other adventurers to set off and see the world. Two centuries after Marco’s passing, Christopher Columbus set off across the Atlantic in hopes of finding a new route to the Orient. With him was a copy of Polo’s book.

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