Marco Polo

Marco Polo
Born c. 1254
Venice, Venetian Republic
Died Jan. 8 or 9, 1324
Venice, Venetian Republic
Nationality Italian

Marco Polo was a very popular Italian merchant traveler from Republic of Venice. His travel records are recorded in a book called Livres des Merveilles du –monde. This book introduced the Europeans to China and Central Asia.

Early Life

It is believed that Marco Polo was born around 1254. The exact birth place of his birth is not known, however most historians claim that he was born in Venice in the Venetian Republic.

His father, a man named Niccolo, was a great merchant who spent his time trading with Middle East. Through his trade, he became a very wealthy man achieving great prestige. Together with his brother, Maffeo, Niccolo set off on a trading voyage before the birth of Marco. In 1260, Maffeo and Niccolo were living in Constantinople. The two foresaw a serious political change and the brothers liquidated their assets into jewels and left the place. They passed through Asia and even met Kublai Khan. During this time, Marco’s mother died and therefore, he was brought up by relatives. He was very well-educated and studied merchant subjects such as foreign currency, appraising, handling of different cargo ships and Latin.

In 1269, Marco’s father and his uncle returned to Venice. Marco was able to meet his dad for the very time. In 1271, Marco, who was only 17 years, along with his dad and uncle, chose to set off to Asia. A series of adventures took place in Asia and all this was recorded in a Marco’s book. In 1295, they went back to Venice; this was after 24 years of adventure. They returned with lots of riches and treasures having traveled for about 15,000 miles.

The Travels of Polo

Marco-PoloAt first, Marco’s father and uncle traveled to Bolgar. Here they met prince Berke Khan and one year later they traveled to Ukek and later continued to Bukhara. In 1269, they reached Dadu, the seat of Kublai Khan (now Beijing, China). The two brothers were received with hospitality and Khan asked many questions in regards to European legal and also political system. In 1271, after meeting his father, Marco Polo joined his dad and uncle on a mission to fulfill Khan’s request. Khan had requested an envoy to bring him oil of lamp of Jerusalem.

They all sailed to Acre and later rode on their camels to Persian port Hormuz. At first, they thought of sailing to China but all the ships were not seaworthy. They decided to continue overland until they get to Khan’s summer place in Shangdu near Zhangjiakou. By this time, Marco was 21 years old. Khan welcomed them into his palace. When they reached Yuan court, they presented sacred oil from the city of Jerusalem.

The Polo Family Leaves China

During this time, Marco Polo could speak four languages and his family had already acquired a great deal of knowledge plus experience that was very useful to Khan. Polo requested that Kublai Khan allow his family to leave China, but the request was denied. They became very worried about their return, believing that if the ruler Khan was already dead, then his enemies would turn against them due to their close relationship with Khan.

In 1291, the ruler in Persia sent some people to search for a wife. The representatives asked Polo and his dad to accompany them and so they were allowed to go back to Persia together with the wedding party.

This party sailed all the way to the port of Singapore, and then traveled north to Sumatra. They sailed west to Trincomalee port of Jaffna under Savakanmaindan and to Pandyan of Tamilakkam. Polo was finally able to cross the Arabian Sea all the way to Hormuz. This two year voyage had about 600 people, but only 18 survived. Polo left the party and traveled overland to the port of Trebizond that is on the Black Sea (now Trabzon).

Polo’s Legacy and Death

After Polo returned to Italy, Venice was unstable and was at war. Marco was taken prisoner and spent several months in prison. During his time in prison, he dictated his travels to a fellow inmate. This book soon spread throughout Europe in manuscript form and explained Polo’s journeys throughout Asia. The book gave Europeans their very first look into the world of the Far East, including India, China, and Japan.

In August of 1299, Polo was released from captivity and he was able to go back to Venice. In Venice, he joined his family’s company and soon he became a very wealthy merchant. In 1300, he got married and, together with his wife, they had three children.

In 1323, Marco Polo became confined to his bed. He died on January 8, 1324.

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