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.
- History of Marco Polo: The History Channel offers a very interesting video and written telling of the story of Marco Polo.
- Marco Polo: The BBC’s take on Marco Polo.
- Marco Polo Biography: A comprehensive account of Polo’s life from Biography.com.
- Marco Polo: Facts. Biography, and Travels: LiveScience.com takes a look at the information in Marco Polo’s book.
- The Travels of Marco Polo: The University Of Adelaide offers Marco Polo’s complete book.
- Marco Polo Timeline: An interactive timeline explores the life of Marco Polo.
- In The Footsteps Of Marco Polo: Television station WLIW has put together a Marco Polo timeline that incorporates some of the drawings associated with the book.
- Marco Polo and the Silk Road: This kid-friendly biography gives us a good summary of Marco Polo’s life and a video to watch as well.
- Interactive Map: Marco Polo’s Journey: This cool resource lets you see Polo’s path and learn about his journeys.
- Marco Polo: Kids Discover gives us a glimpse into the life of Marco Polo.
- Famous Explorers: Marco Polo: A comprehensive biography of Polo.
- Marco Polo: This page offers interesting Marco Polo facts and pictures.
- Marco Polo and His Description of the World: History Today explains why Marco Polo’s description of the world is so important.
- Marco Polo: This page summarizes the life of Polo.
- China Culture: Marco Polo: China’s point of view on Marco Polo’s travels offers a different perspective.
- Marco Polo’s Route: A University of Washington map shows the routes of Polo’s explorations.
- Marco Polo Part 1: National Graphic looks at the life of Marco Polo.
- Marco Polo Sheep: Have you ever heard of Marco Polo sheep? The Wildlife Conservation Society gives us an introduction.
- The Northern Silk Road: Marco Polo: Who was Marco Polo? This page provides answers.