Marco Polo was born on September 15, 1254. The Polos were a family of Venetian merchants who traveled along the Silk route. Polo made his first expedition at the age of 15 with his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, who were seasoned merchants just like their father and grandfathers before them. During one great expedition, they spent 27 years away from their home. When they returned, the country was at war and during a skirmish, Polo was captured and imprisoned. Here, he narrated the tales of his journey to a fellow cellmate which became one of the greatest pieces of travel literature of then — Il milione.
Marco Polo was born in 1254 in Venice to a family of sailor merchants. Polo met his father for the first time at age 15, in 1269, after senior Polo returned from a long voyage. He accompanied them on their next journey two years later, traveling across Asia through the Silk Route. Marco Polo found a seat at the court of the Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan after he impressed the emperor with his wit and humility. He acted as the emperor’s emissary, traveling to many south Asian regions, such as India, China, Burma, Japan, and Sri Lanka. After spending more than 20 years at the Mongolian court, the Polos chose to bid adieu to their aging ruler, fearing that the next regime or ruler might not be considerate of a bunch of foreigners.
They traveled to Persia with Mongol princess Kököchin, and from there they left for Venice in 1293. When they reached Venice, their country was at war with Genoa. Polo joined forces to support his country but was caught in a skirmish and imprisoned. He regaled his tales of travel to a fellow cellmate, Rustichello da Pisa who was also an Italian romance writer. Pisa wrote the biography of Polo — ‘Il milione’ (derived from Marco’s nickname ‘Milione,’ meaning million). Some people received his books well, while others claimed the majority of the entries to be fables.
In 1299, after being released from prison, he became a wealthy businessman and raised a family. He had three daughters. He died at the age of 70 as a man who had lived a full life.
Marco Polo is born in Venice.
Polo embarks on his first voyage when he is just an adolescent.
As per Polo’s travelogue, he governs a town of the Chinese empire, Yangzhou, but this can also be a faulty translation.
‘Ovis ammon polii,’ colloquially called the ‘Marco Polo sheep,’ is named after the explorer.
Why We Love Marco Polo
He opened the eyes of the Europeans
Though he was not the first to travel to extreme ends of the world, his travelogues taught and inspired ordinary people of the larger world. This is certainly a reason to admire the man.
His wit and humility impressed an Emperor
Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, was impressed by Marco Polo so much that even after spending 24 years at his court, he was reluctant to let Polo go. Entertaining an emperor is certainly evidence of his talents.
He knew how to make friends
Without good contacts, how else will you explain such a fruitful career as a merchant? He even used his time as a prisoner to write a book. Talk about being resourceful!
5 Surprising Facts
With his many accounts of travels, he was the first to introduce Europeans to porcelain, coal, gunpowder, paper money, and many more exotic herbs and plants.
Influencing the map
Polo’s travel literature influenced European cartography, introducing the Fra Mauro map.
The Travels of Marco Polo
The English-translated version of Polo’s travel book/biography was called ‘The Travels of Marco Polo.’
He talked endlessly about the use of paper money in Kublai Khan’s kingdom, giving it as much worth as gold or silver.
Death and burial
He was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice.
Marco Polo FAQs
Is there a movie on Marco Polo?
Marco Polo has been reprised on the big screen several times, telling the adventurous tales of the explorer. In 2007, Kevin Conor directed the movie with the eponymous name.
Was Marco Polo rich?
Yes, Marco Polo was born into a wealthy family and amassed much fortune of his own.
How did Marco Polo die?
Polo died in his home in Venice, possibly due to cancer.
Marco Polo’s birthday dates