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Who is Marco Polo?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
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Marco Polo was born on 15 September 1254 in Venice, Italy. Born in a family of traders, he grew up hearing family stories of travel and adventures. His father, along with two brothers, moved about for years, living and trading everywhere from the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea to modern day Uzbekistan. This instilled in him two of the biggest loves of his life: traveling and trading.

It was Marco Polo's father who first traveled the famous China's Silk Road. A couple of years after the original trip, Polo joined his father on a repeat trip to see Kublai Khan. What had been originally planned as a short visit turned into a 17-year residency in the Chinese Empire. Marco became the Khan's favorite, and accompanied him in official business throughout the kingdom.

He returned to Europe in 1291, where he immediately became involved in the family trading business. During this time, he also dictated many of his adventures to Rustichello da Pisa, a romance writer, who penned the book Il Milione (The Million), later traduced into English as "The travels of Marco Polo." Polo is sometimes mistakenly identified as the first Westerner to reach China, but he wasn't. In fact, many explorers before him visited the Khan's court. What makes him so memorable is the fact that he lived in China for enough time to learn its customs and experience everyday life first-hand.

When Il Milione was published, he became an instant celebrity. In a time where Asia was clouded in such mystery to the Western world, the book was a portal into a mysterious and magical world. This was both a blessing and a curse for the man, who often had to endure cruel jokes from locals who didn't believe the stories told in the book.

Marco Polo became a wealthy trader later in life, but he never again left Italy on his own expeditions. He did act as a consultant or sponsor to other travelers, and he often helped other merchants establish their trading businesses with the East. He married late, at the age of 46, and had three daughters. Polo died on 8 January 1324.

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Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By anon994388 — On Feb 05, 2016

It has also stated that he gave his story to a "romance novelist" and the book first was called "The Millions ". When the book was written in English, it was then called "Travels of Marco Polo."

By anon986222 — On Jan 23, 2015

Marco Polo is cool. It's bad that he had married too late so after he got married and had kids, he had barely any time left to see them grow up.

By anon333752 — On May 07, 2013

Does anyone know what Marco Polo traded?

By kentuckycat — On Oct 22, 2012

@titans62 - What I find to be incredibly interesting with Marco Polo is that he set the bar for other explorers to follow, but he did so in such a way that is was nearly 200 years before another explorer could be able to claim that they had as much impact as him.

The age of exploration really did not occur for about another 150 years and between that time there were very few new discoveries of faraway lands.

To think that Marco Polo was able to do what he did a couple centuries before anyone else is extraordinary and is something that makes him a figurehead in history, as someone who helped to bridge the gaps between cultures and create the globalized world that we see today.

By titans62 — On Oct 21, 2012

@JimmyT - I do not know if Marco Polo really bridged the gap between the two cultures so much with his travels, but how he wrote of these travels.

Literacy was just beginning to spread throughout Europe and his recount of the journey only led people to wonder what else was out there and also to think of and envision other mystical and exotic lands.

I am sure that there were some others that visited China and the Far East before him, but I really think that he was the first one to give a very vivid account and was able to see the Far East from the perspective of being in a leader's inner circle.

By JimmyT — On Oct 21, 2012

@cardsfan27 - I agree, I believe Marco Polo is the most famous explorer of all time simply due to the impact he had on other explorers.

To think that a European explorer was able to like in Kublai Khan's China for 17 years when virtually no other Europeans had ever seen the continent is extraordinary and he was able to accompany the leader on business throughout the kingdom.

I really think that Marco Polo led the wave of other explorers who began to bridge the gaps between continents and be able to share goods, ideas, and culture.

For those who disagree that he is the most famous explorer of all time I point at the game "Marco Polo" and ask why his name was picked for the only children's game based on an explorer?

By cardsfan27 — On Oct 20, 2012
I really think that Marco Polo is the most famous explorer of all time, even far more famous than Christopher Columbus.

I know there are many people who may disagree with me, but people need to realize that Marco Polo was the first explorer to bring knowledge of East Asia, which is something many people take for granted.

During Marco Polo's early days there was virtually nothing known about East Asia and he was the first one that was able to relay the culture to the isolated continent of Europe, establishing trade that lasted for hundreds of years.

By medicchristy — On Nov 12, 2010

@cellmania: Many experts believe that Marco Polo never went to all of the places that he said he did. They believe that his stories were just stories that he heard from other people. However, he did accurately describe different religions, traditions, and cultures of the east.

When Marco was released from prison, he married and eventually had 3 daughters.

By christym — On Nov 12, 2010

@cellmania: It has been said that Marco Polo was fluent in 4 different languages. Marco was in the east when he was first introduced to paper money. He was used to gold and silver coins and the paper money seemed worthless to him.

When Marco returned to Venice, he enlisted in the army. He was later captured by the Genoas and was imprisoned. While in prison, he told of his life story to another inmate. This story became published as the Travels of Marco Polo.

By CellMania — On Nov 12, 2010

Nice article but I need a little more information about Marco Polo. Can anyone provide any further details?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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