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MARCO POLO ( He was here...),

1271-1295. Marco Polo

The most famous of Silk Road travelers, who, by his own account, worked for Qubilai Khan. Marco Polo traveled overland through Persia across the Pamir Mountains and south of the dangerous Taklamakan Desert.  His return was by sea from China around south Asia to Hormuz, when he then went overland to the Mediterranean.  Marco dictated his account to a professional writer of romances while imprisoned by Genoese authorities  (whose authoritarian hunger for power was insulted by his freedom) upon his return. It is important to remember he had not kept a diary – clearly, some of his descriptions are formulaic, some not based on direct observation, while others reflect word-of-mouth travel mythology. Many of his observations are precise and verifiable - others more unique but most likely accurate. Since his main associations seem to have been with Mongol rulers of China and with members of the Muslim merchant community, often he was silent about ‘obvious’ features of Chinese society. Polo's book became well known in Renaissance Europe and served as a stimulus for further travel and discovery.

Marco's father, Nikola, and uncle, Matteo, founded their trading outpost in Korcula, which at that time fell under Venetian Marine control, in Venice, Italy.  Korcula was the starting point of their business trade and the the bithplace of Marco. Marco's father and uncle penetrated deep into Asia. They erected a tower and founded their own trading outpost in the town of Sudac on the Crimea. They had their main trade centre in Constantinople, to which many Korcula businessmen and shipbuilders were traveling and for some time
residing. Matteo and Nikola Polo traded successfully with the Persians. They were aware of little known paths, which led through Syria and Iraq, to the coasts of the Persian Gulf, and they also knew of areas where pearl oysters could be found. They knew routes that led to fur traders in southern Siberia. They had trade contacts with dignitaries of various Tartar peoples and they reached the court of The Great Kublai Khan (emperor of the entire universe) in China. They started their journey before Marco Polo was born. They left their family and unborn Marco, as they looked towards the Far East.

Marco Polo was 6 years old when his father and uncle set out further eastward on their first trip to China (‘Cathay’ as it was called by them). He was 15 years old when his father and uncle returned to Venice to find that Marco's mother had passed away in their absence. He remained in Venice with his father and uncle for two years.

At the end of year 1271, receiving letters and valuable gifts for the Great Khan from the new Pope Tedaldo (Gregory X), the Polos once more set out from Venice on their journey to the east. They took with them 17-year-old Marco Polo and two friars. The two friars hastily turned back after reaching a war zone, but the Polos carried on. They passed through Armenia, Persia, and Afghanistan, over the Pamirs, and all along the Silk Road to China.

Polo brought the very ideas of paper currency and coal to Europe and he included second-hand reports of areas he had not visited, like Japan and Madagascar – to mention but a few of his accomplishments.


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Silkroad Foundation Home Page


"The Bridge between Eastern and Western Cultures"


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Silk Road Hotels:Alemdar Mh. Incili Cavus Sk. 19-3, Sultanahmet - Istanbul / Turkey
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