Marco Polo was born around 1254, we
can't be exactly sure about his year of birth.
He probably grew up in Venice.
Marco Polo's trips to Asia made him famous.
What was so special about his journeys? And was he
already famous in his days?
Marco Polo's Family
Marco Polo's father was
Niccolò Polo. Marco Polo's uncle was
were smart traders and thus Marco's family was pretty comfortable financially. One of their friends was
even made pope. That was
Marco Polo was married and had three daughters.
Marco Polo's Travels
Marco, Niccolò, and Maffeo were travel companions and on the road
from 1271 until 1295.
Before that they had pitched tent at Constantinople and
made a fortune there. In 1260, they exchanged all their money
for jewels and took off direction Mongol Empire, as you do.
1275, the Polos arrived in Cathay, or China. They set
up camp there for 17 years and made friends with, and worked
Kublai Khan, famous grandson of
In 1292, the exploratory trio left
China and got mugged. Someone's Christmas came early that year.
MARCO POLO'S TRAVELS
Click to enlarge
Marco Polo's Return
In 1295, and after 24 years of travel,
the Polos arrived back home. Of course, nobody recognized them.
Marco was now in his early 40s.
In 1298, Venice and Genoa
competed against each other in a sea battle. The Genoese
took Marco Polo captive and locked him up in a prison in
Genoa. But Marco was in good company. His cell-mate was the accomplished writer
Rustichello offered to
write Marco Polo's travel log. Marco was delighted and
accepted. The product was his
Description of the World. See more about this
work further down.
Relations between Venice and Genoa relaxed and Marco Polo got out of prison around 1299.
And here is another map of Marco Polo's travel route
ROUTE OF MARCO POLO
map to enlarge
Marco Polo wrote Il milione, which means The Million,
and is today better known as the Travels of Marco Polo.
Its original title was Description of the World (Divisament
was special about Marco Polo's travel writings?
People's imaginations were triggered by descriptions of
unknown civilizations, enormous fortunes, new and exciting
things such as asbestos, coal,
magic rites, and paper money. Oddly, Marco wrote it without
giving away how he felt
about all this. He just gave the plain facts.
How accurate are Marco Polo's reports?
The Polos might or might not have acted as military
advisers to Emperor Kublai Khan. And Marco might or might
not have been temporarily the governor of Jiangsu.
Several versions of
Marco Polo's work circulated and some editors felt free to lent a writing hand,
thus contributing to the list of potential factual errors. And did the
people know how to spell all the foreign terms and geographic
Another head scratcher is the fact
that Marco never mentioned anything about the use of tea in China.
And what about the Great Wall?
In any case, the piece hit the bestseller lists.
You can read The Travels of Marco
Polo online and for free. Here is the
to Volume I, and here is the
to Volume II.
Some say Marco Polo had a
brilliant mind, and that he was a great writer and traveler.
Others take a more critical position
and argue that he was
dull, and his stories are mere inventions, the result of two
people in a prison cell with a pen and too much idle time.
Marco Polo Trivia
If Marco Polo's writings don't stir
you, they sure inspired
Right up his alley.
Marco Polo's Name
There was the Marco Polo Bridge
Incident, a battle between China and Japan on July 7, 1937. The
And here is the link to the
Marco Polo Hotels,
promising a combination of Asian warmth and Western comfort.