Polo, Marco


Polo, Marco

biographical name


Marco Polo, title page of the first printed edition of The Travels of Marco Polo, 1477.—Courtesy of the Columbia University Libraries, New York

(born c. 1254, Venice [Italy]—died Jan. 8, 1324, Venice) Venetian merchant and traveler who journeyed from Europe to Asia (1271–95). Born into a Venetian merchant family, he joined his father and uncle on a journey to China, traveling along the Silk Road and reaching the court of Kublai Khan c. 1274. The Polos remained in China for about 17 years, and the Mongol emperor sent Marco on several fact-finding missions to distant lands. Marco may also have governed the city of Yangzhou (1282–87). The Polos returned to Venice in 1295, after sailing from eastern China to Persia and then journeying overland through Turkey. Captured by the Genoese soon after his return, Marco was imprisoned along with a writer, Rustichello, who helped him to write the tale of his travels. The book, Il milione, was an instant success, though most medieval readers considered it an extravagant romance rather than a true story.

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