The Long Distance Travels of Marco Polo

The story of Marco Polo has been chronicled in movies, books, and songs through the ages. He was born on September 15, 1254, and he is credited with some of the most significant innovations in the history of international trade. It was not so much where Marco Polo went that changed the world; it was the way that he was able to so accurately describe places in the Far East. Marco Polo was able to give Europeans detailed descriptions of Asian culture that helped to spur an interest in trading with these far-off lands. Marco Polo’s adventurous spirit is responsible for inspiring other travelers to open up new frontiers and then tell the world their stories.

Early Life and Family Origins

Marco Polo was born to a wealthy merchant from Venice named Niccolo Polo and his wife, Nicole Anna Defuseh. The popular story is that Marco Polo was born in Venice, but he may have actually been born just outside of Venice and then moved to Venice with his family after he was born.

Niccolo Polo traded with an area known as the Near East, which was considered the westernmost part of Asia. Niccolo and his eldest son Maffeo had actually left Venice before Marco was born; Niccolo would not see his son Marco until after Marco had turned 17 years old.

Marco’s father and brother had been living and trading in Constantinople for many years, but they decided to get out of the area when political tensions were on the rise. The Polos traveled throughout Asia and eventually met the Mongolian leader Kublai Khan. After meeting and trading with Khan, the Polos returned to Venice to meet young Marco.

The Travels of Marco Polo

Being a merchant and traveling was a big part of Marco Polo’s family, so it only made sense that Marco would team up with his father and brother to travel throughout Asia. This time, the Polos traveled well beyond any area that Niccolo and Maffeo had ever seen before. The trio became incredibly successful merchants and gathered significant wealth throughout their travels.

In early 1294, Niccolo’s health was failing, so the trio decided to go back home to Venice. They returned to a Venice that was in turmoil and at war with neighboring Genoa. Niccolo passed away soon after the trio reached Venice. Marco and Maffeo decided to defend their home by putting together groups of soldiers and heading into battle with Genoa.

Marco Polo’s Capture and the Telling of His Stories

In 1296, Marco Polo was captured by Genoan forces and imprisoned for three years. While he was in prison, Polo met a fellow merchant named Rustichello da Pisa who had traveled to the Orient as well. Both men had extensive experience traveling to and trading with China, which was a country that still held mystery for the people of Europe. Polo dictated the stories of his travels to da Pisa, and da Pisa added in his own experiences to help fill out the stories.

The book was eventually titled “The Travels of Marco Polo,” and it went on to become a sensation throughout Europe. When Marco Polo was released from captivity in 1299, he decided to go back home to Venice and start a family. Marco Polo passed away in 1323 as the father of three children and an extremely wealthy man. He had also set in motion one of the most significant eras in human history with his tales of the Orient.

The Significance Of Marco Polo

Marco Polo was not the first merchant to trade with the Far East, but he was the first to put his story into book form and sell it to the world. His stories about China, India, and all of the other areas he had traveled to inspired generations of merchants and explorers to go out and see what they could find.

Polo’s book is often considered to be the inspiration for iconic cultural elements such as paper money, the production of sea salt, and the exploration of the New World.