Marco Polo (September 15, 1254 – January 9, 1324) was born to his father Niccolo Polo who was a wealthy merchant from Europe to the Eastern World. Marco learned about trade from his father and his uncle Maffeo and would take this knowledge and apply it. He would expand his father’s wealth with his travels to China and would end up as a prisoner during a war between Venice and Genoa. Here he would tell his story to a writer who would end up publishing a book titled the Travels of Marco Polo. This book would become an influential work for future explorers who also wanted to acquire wealth from trade with India, China and the rest of the Indies. Christopher Columbus was especially influenced by these travels and sought to find a new route to the Indies. Instead he would find a new world. Ironically, both he and Marco Polo died never knowing that a New Continent existed.
Marco Polo’s Early Years
Marco Polo was born to his father Niccolo and a mother that is unknown. His mother passed away early in his life and while his father was on the road he was raised by his aunt and uncle. It would not be long until he joined his father and his uncle Maffeo in their travels.
Marco’s father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo was a visionary. During one of their voyages Marco and Maffeo stopped in Constantinople and saw that change was coming. At the time, Constantinople was part of the Byzantine Empire and remained as one of the most powerful cities in Europe. However, since the fall of Rome, Europe was in a state of constant war. The feudal society developed into multiple factions that warred with each other. Rome which had united the factions had fallen some time before.
- Marco Polo traveled with Niccolo and Maffeo Polo. Niccolo was his father and Maffeo was his uncle.
- Niccolo and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage before Marco was born and became very wealthy from their travels. According to the Travels of Marco Polo, Niccolo and Maffeo passed through much of Asia and eventually stopped in Constantinople. During their stay they foresaw political change and liquidated their assets into jewels and moved away.
- According to the Travels of Marco Polo they passed through much of Asia and met the Kublai Khan. During this time Marco’s mother passed away and he was raised by an aunt and an uncle. He would become well-educated and learned everything there was to know about being a merchant. Things such as: foreign currency, appraising and the handling of cargo ships. All would come in handy during his travels.
- In 1269 Niccolo and Maffeo returned to Venice. Niccolo met his son for the first time.
- In 1271 a seventeen-year-old Marco Polo set off for Asia with his father and uncle. They would return 24 years later with many riches. It is estimated that they traveled 15,000 miles.
Marco Polo Facts: Capture and Later Life
- When the Polos returned to Venice, Venice was at war with Genoa.
- Genoese admiral Lamba D’Oria defeated the Venetian fleet at the Battle of Curzola. During the battle Marco Polo was taken prisoner.
- While in prison he met Rustichello da Pisa. He would spend quite a bit of time dictating his travels to Pisa. This would become the book, The Travels of Marco Polo.
- The Travels of Marco Polo became influential for many future explorers. Most notably, Christopher Columbus.
- The Travels of Marco Polo was the first detailed account of the wealth of China to Europeans.
- Polo was released from captivity in 1299. He would have been around 45 years old.
- He returned to Venice where his Father and Uncle had purchased a large home. He would conduct his business here and become one of the wealthiest merchants in the world.
- He never left Venice again
- In 1300 he married Donata Badoer.
- Together they had three daughters: Fantina, Bellela and Moreta.
Marco Polo Facts: Death and Legend
- In 1323 Polo was struck with an illness and was bedridden for most of that year.
- Although Physicians did the best they could, Marco Polo died on January 8, 1324.
- He divided his large portion to his family and other organizations.
- Some are skeptical if Marco Polo ever really set foot into China or if it was all hearsay. He never mentions the Great Wall of China which leads many to hesitate to believe him. However, the Great Wall of China is postdated about two centuries after the life of Marco Polo.