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Who is Marco Polo?
Marco Polo (1254 – January 8–9, 1324) was a Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer.His travels are recorded in Livres des merveilles du monde, a book that described to Europeans the wealth and great size of China, its capital Peking, and other Asian cities and countries.
Marco Polo was born in 1254 in the Republic of Venice. His exact date and place of birth are officially unknown. Some historians mentioned that he was born on September but that date is not endorsed by mainstream scholarship. Marco Polo’s birthplace is generally considered Venice
He learned the mercantile trade from his father and his uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, who travelled through Asia and met Kublai Khan. In 1269, they returned to Venice to meet Marco for the first time. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa; Marco was imprisoned and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married, and had three children. He died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice.
Marco Polo was not the first European to reach China (see Europeans in Medieval China), but he was the first to leave a detailed chronicle of his experience. This book inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers. There is a substantial literature based on Polo’s writings; he also influenced European cartography, leading to the introduction of the Fra Mauro map.
In 1168, his great-uncle, Marco Polo, borrowed money and commanded a ship in Constantinople. His grandfather, Andrea Polo of the parish of San Felice, had three sons, Maffeo, yet another Marco, and the traveller’s father Niccolò. This genealogy, described by Ramusio, is not universally accepted as there is no additional evidence to support it.
His father, Niccolò Polo, a merchant, traded with the Near East, becoming wealthy and achieving great prestige. Niccolò and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage before Marco’s birth.In 1260, Niccolò and Maffeo, while residing in Constantinople, then the capital of the Latin Empire, foresaw a political change; they liquidated their assets into jewels and moved away. According to The Travels of Marco Polo, they passed through much of Asia, and met with Kublai Khan, a Mongol ruler and founder of the Yuan dynasty. Their decision to leave Constantinople proved timely. In 1261 Michael VIII Palaiologos, the ruler of the Empire of Nicaea, took Constantinople, promptly burned the Venetian quarter and re-established the Eastern Roman Empire. Captured Venetian citizens were blinded, while many of those who managed to escape perished aboard overloaded refugee ships fleeing to other Venetian colonies in the Aegean Sea.
Almost nothing is known about the childhood of Marco Polo until he was fifteen years old, excepting that he probably spent part of his childhood in Venice. Meanwhile, Marco Polo‘s mother died, and an aunt and uncle raised him. He received a good education, learning mercantile subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships;he learned little or no Latin. His father later married Floradise Polo (née Trevisan).
In 1269, Niccolò and Maffeo returned to their families in Venice, meeting young Marco for the first time. In 1271, during the rule of Doge Lorenzo Tiepolo, Marco Polo (at seventeen years of age), his father, and his uncle set off for Asia on the series of adventures that Marco later documented in his book.They returned to Venice in 1295, 24 years later, with many riches and treasures. They had travelled almost 15,000 miles (24,000 km).
Though Marco Polo never produced a map that illustrated his journey, his family drew several maps to the Far East based on the wayward’s accounts. These collection of maps were signed by Polo’s three daughters: Fantina, Bellela and Moreta. Not only did it contain maps of his journey, but also sea routes to Japan, Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, the Bering Strait and even to the coastlines of Alaska, centuries before the rediscovery of the Americas by Europeans.
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