Marco Polo



Marco Polo is one of the most well-known heroic
travelers and traders around the world. In my paper I will
discuss with you Marco Polo\'s life, his travels, and his
visit to China to see the great Khan. Marco Polo was born in
c.1254 in Venice. He was a Venetian explorer and merchant
whose account of his travels in Asia was the primary source
for the European image of the Far East until the late 19th
century.

Marco\'s father, Niccol¨, and his uncle Maffeo had
traveled to China (1260-69) as merchants. When they left
(1271) Venice to return to China, they were accompanied by
17-year-old Marco and two priests. Early Life Despite his
enduring fame, very little was known about the personal
life of Marco Polo. It is known that he was born into a
leading Venetian family of merchants. He also lived during a
propitious time in world history, when the height of
Venice\'s influence as a city-state coincided with the
greatest extent of Mongol conquest of Asia(Li Man Kin
9). Ruled by Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire stretched all
the way from China to Russia and the Levant. The Mongol
hordes also threatened other parts of Europe, particularly
Poland and Hungary, inspiring fear everywhere by their
bloodthirsty advances. Yet the ruthless methods brought a
measure of stability to the lands they controlled, opening
up trade routes such as the famous Silk Road. Eventually,the
Mongols discovered that it was more profitable to collect
tribute from people than to kill them outright, and this
policy too stimulated trade(Hull 23).

Into this favorable atmosphere a number of European
traders ventured, including the family of Marco Polo. The
Polos had long-established ties in the Levant and around the
Black Sea: for example, they owned property in
onstantinople, and Marco\'s uncle, for whom he was named, had
a home in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8). From Sudak, around
1260, another uncle, Maffeo, and Marco\'s father, Niccol¨,
made a trading visit into Mongol territory, the land of the
Golden Horde(Russia), ruled by Berke Khan. While they were
there, a war broke out between Berke and the Cowan of
Levant, blocking their return home. Thus Niccol¨ and Maffeo
traveled deeper into mongol territory, moving southeast to
Bukhara, which was ruled by a third Cowan. While waiting
there, they met an emissary traveling farther eastward who
invited them to accompany him to the court of the great
Cowan, Kublai, in Cathay(modern China). In Cathay, Kublai
Khan gave the Polos a friendly reception, appointed them
his emissaries to the pope, and ensured their safe travel
back to Europe(Steffof 10). They were to return to Cathay
with one hundred learned men who could instruct the Mongols
in the Christian religion and the liberal arts.

In 1269, Niccol and Maffeo Polo arrived back in Venice,
where Niccol found out his wife had died while he was gone
(Rugoff 5). Their son, Marco, who was only about fifteen
years old, had been only six or younger when his father left
home:thus; Marco was reared primarily by his mother and the
extended Polo family-and the streets of Venice. After his
mother\'s death, Marco had probably begun to think of himself
as something of a orphan(Rugoff 6). Then his father and
uncle suddenly reappeared, as if from the dead, after nine
years of traveling in far-off, romantic lands. These
experiences were the formative influences on young Marco,
and one can see their effects mirrored in his character: a
combination of sensitivity and toughness, independence and
loyalty, motivated by an eagerness for adventure, a love of
stories, and a desire to please or impress(Li Man Kin 10).

Life\'s Work

In 1268, Pope Clement IV died, and a two- or three-year
delay while another pope was being elected gave young Marco
time to mature and to absorb the tales of his father and
uncle. Marco was seventeen years old when he, his father and
uncle finally set out for the court of Kublai Khan(Stefoff
13). They were accompanied not by one hundred wise men but
by two Dominican friars, and the two good friars turned back
at the first sign of adversity, another local war in the
Levant. Aside from the pope\'s messages, the only spiritual
gift Europe was