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Marco Polo (1254-1324), is famously known as one of the most renowned Europeans of medieval time to have traveled the Silk Road.
Besides this, he was a merchant and was known for traveling widely across the far east and China. While doing so, he composed a compilation of his journey in 1300 in a book called 'Livres des Merveilles du Monde' (Book of the World’s Marvels).
Did you know that his book is also available in English? The English translation of this book is called 'The Travels of Marco Polo' which encompasses his journeys across various regions including Asia and China.
After reading about his work about the Mongol army, the Mongol empire, and Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, also check out facts about Marco Polo wife and Marco Polo timeline.
You might be curious about the exciting things concerning Marco Polo, Marco’s father, Marco Polo’s mother, the sensational Marco Polo’s travels, Marco Polo’s book and maybe even Marco’s journey. Let's dive in.
The archives of the Republic of Venice contain frequent mention of Marco as Marco Paulo de Confinio Sancti Iohannis Grisostom which translates to Marco Polo of the Contrada of St John Chrysostom Church. Upon returning from his travels, Marco was nicknamed as ‘Milione’, meaning Million. But why? A 15th-century humanist, Giovanni Battista Ramusio, has the answer. According to him, after coming back to Venice, Marco repeatedly told how Kublai Khan’s wealth was counted in millions.
Marco Polo was born in Venice and was Italian. He, like his father, Niccolo, and uncle Maffeo, was a merchant. It also seems that Marco Polo got the enthusiasm to travel from them because Marco’s father and uncle too traveled extensively before Marco was born.
Did you know, besides writing and recording his journey, he knew several languages, one of them being Mongolian, and was also exceptional at four written alphabets? But this is not where the astonishment ends. Let's cover all the surprising things and facts about Marco Polo.
Marco began his journey of travels at the age of 17, with his father and uncle, in the year 1271. This journey was originally meant to last for a brief period but ended up stretching up to 20 years. Marco’s first journey was toward the court of Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan Dynasty and the Mongol Emperor. Upon reaching their destination, Marco’s father offered Kublai khan the services of his son. Marco had also gained an understanding of the mercantile trade, their family business, from his father and uncle.
Which countries did Marco visit? By now, we know that the Polo family traveled extensively. They explored a multitude of places along the Silk Road, until they set foot on Cathay (China). He is said to have traveled for 24 years of his life. The Venetian Merchant from Venice, Italy went to sea from the Mediterranean sea to the middle east. The first few months of their journey were spent in Acre; while there, they spoke with Archdeacon Pope Gregory, the head of the Catholic Church, and the ruler of papal states.
Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle had access to the gold passport, which lets travelers avail facilities while on the Silk Route, such as lodgings and horses. Despite this privilege, it took them three and a half years to arrive at Kublai Khan’s palace.
The young 21-year-old Marco’s intelligence and humility impressed Kublai Khan and ultimately he appointed Marco as his foreign emissary to India and Burma. Subsequently, Marco went on several diplomatic missions throughout the empire as well as southeast Asia, including in present-day Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. While doing this, Marco kept Kublai Khan informed about things happenings and his observations. This continued for 17 years, and now the Polos wanted to go back to Venice, their home.
But they had to beg for Kublai Khan’s permission to let them go, which he refused to grant them because the Polos had proved to be useful to the ruler until 1291, when the ruler permitted them to return while also escorting the Mongol princess Kokochin, who was to become the consort of Arghun Khan, in Persia. They set foot for Constantinople, and finally Venice.
The Polos return to Venice occurred in 1295, bringing an end to their 24 years of journey. According to some sources, the Polos had somewhat forgotten their native language and were even thought to have been dead. Marco Polo returned with fortune converted into gems. At this time (1299), Venice and the Republic of Genoa were at war.
While in prison, Marco dictated the events and tale of his travels to one of his cellmates, Rusticello from Pisa, who was an experienced writer of romantic novels. While Polo narrated his experience, Rusticello made a record of these stories in French. Basically, he was the co-writer of what later came to be known as 'The Travels of Marco Polo'. This book became the primary source of information for the Europeans and gave them a glimpse into the workings, culture, and lifestyle of the far east, specifically into China, India, and Japan.
After his release from prison in August 1299, Marco went to his home in Venice to see a large palazzo owned by his father and uncle. With time, Marco became a wealthy merchant. Though Marco and his uncle went for other expeditions, they never left the Venetian provinces. Before 1300, Marco received the devastating news of the death of his father, Niccolo. In the same year, Marco married Donata Badoer, daughter of another merchant. They welcomed three daughters. The rest of his life was spent working and in Venice. While the exact date of his death is not known, it is believed to be January 8, 1324, having lived for 70 years. He was buried under the church of San Lorenzo.
Marco Polo introduced several new concepts, the majority of them recorded by him in his best-selling book and some narrated. The simple fact that Marco Polo was one of the first few European travelers to have made the journey to the Far East or central Asia signifies that he had seen much more than the average European.
During the 13th century, the concept of paper money was new and unknown to Europe. It was in the Mongol Empire that Marco came across paper money. Interestingly, it was Marco Polo who brought this notion to light in Europe. Further, his compilation of experiences of Far East or central Asia is considered to be the most detailed and comprehensive one.
Marco Polo is also credited with originating the first western record of asserting gunpowder, coal, paper money, a few Asian plants, and exotic animals. His record disclosed and unearthed a plethora of subjects to the Europeans.
It is claimed that the travels of Marco Polo had more or less influenced the cartography to elevate in Europe. The book is considered an important source of knowledge in a wide range of aspects including geography, culture, and people. The Europeans got to see the world from a whole different perspective.
Additionally, the maps of 16th century Asia were based on his writings. Even the legendary Christopher Columbus was inspired by Marco’s book. This book served as the most crucial source for almost everything concerning central Asia. It’s like Marco Polo himself asserted, he has not shared half the experiences that he experienced.
What was the title of Marcos' book? When was it published? What kind of content did it contain? Let's get right to the chase. Since Marco was a traveler, the content of his book was centered around his voyages.
He penned what he observed during his journey and brought to light the culture and traditions, giving the people of the west a glimpse into the east. Marco’s book is what keeps him in people’s memories.
The title of the book is 'The Travels of Marco Polo', a 13th-century travelogue. Initially, the book was distributed one at a time due to the non-existence of printing presses. There is an approximation of 140-150 hand-printed manuscripts, all different from one another. The oldest of these manuscripts exists in old French. The translations of his book are in a few languages including German, English, Latin, Venetian, Catalan, Aragonese and Gaelic.
The first-ever English translation of the text was published in 1579 by John Frampton. Being a travelogue, it consists of details and observations he experienced during his voyage, beginning with a snippet of a trip that his father and uncle made to Bolghar.
Not much is known about the childhood of Marco Polo. Before Marco was born, his father, Niccolo Polo; and his uncle, Maffeo Polo traveled to Asia. By the time they returned, after 16 years, Marco was 15 and his mother had died.
Accordingly, young Marco was raised by his relatives. The first known ancestor of Marco is known to be his great uncle, Marco Polo (the older), who supervised a ship in Constantinople. Next is Marco’s grandfather, Andrea. Andrea lived in Venice and had three sons: Marco 'the older', Maffeo, and Niccolo. An ancient source from Venice considers Marco’s ancestors to belong to Dalmatia.
Marco belonged to an affluent family of merchants. His father and uncle traveled to Asia for trading purposes. Niccolo and Maffeo left Venice in 1254 to travel east. Only for the initial few years of his life was he raised by his mother, but after her death and in the absence of his father’s presence, who did not even know he had a son, Marco spent 15 years of life with support from his relatives. The Polo brothers traveled through the Silk Route, a 5000-mile travel route credited to the Mongolian Emperor, Kublai Khan.
Marco received a quality education. He possessed the knowledge of subjects such as handling cargo ships or foreign currency, but he did not learn Latin. Eventually, Marco Polo's father married for a second time to Florida Polo. It was in 1269 that Marco met his father and uncle for the first time. Further, in 1271, after staying in Venice for two years, Niccolo and Maffeo took Marco with them for their voyage, the details of which are encompassed in Marco’s book.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 133 Marco Polo facts that you should know about the Venetian merchant then why not take a look at Marco Polo kids, or why was Marco Polo important.
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