Marco Polo (, , ; September 15, 1254January 8, 1324) was a merchant, explorer, and writer who travelled through Asia along the between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ' (also known as ''Book of the Marvels of the World '' and ''Il Milione'', c. 1300), a book that described to Europeans the then mysterious culture and inner workings of the Eastern world, including the wealth and great size of the and China in the , giving their first comprehensive look into , , , and other Asian cities and countries. Born in , Marco learned the mercantile trade from his father and his uncle, , who travelled through Asia and met . In 1269, they returned to Venice to meet Marco for the first time. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, exploring many places along the Silk Road until they reached (China). They were received by the royal court of Kublai Khan, who was impressed by Marco's intelligence and humility. Marco was appointed to serve as Khan's foreign emissary, and he was sent on many s throughout the empire and Southeast Asia, such as in present-day , , , and . As part of this appointment, Marco also travelled extensively inside China, living in the emperor's lands for 17 years and seeing many things that had previously been unknown to Europeans. Around 1291, the Polos also offered to accompany the Mongol princess to Persia; they arrived around 1293. After leaving the princess, they travelled overland to and then to , returning home after 24 years. At this time, Venice was ; Marco was captured and imprisoned by the Genoans after joining the war effort and dictated his stories to , a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy , married, and had three children. He died in 1324 and was buried in the church of . Though he was not the first European to reach China (see ), Marco Polo was the first to leave a detailed chronicle of his experience. This account of the Orient provided the Europeans with a clear picture of the East's geography and ethnic customs, and was the first Western record of porcelain, coal, gunpowder, paper money, and some Asian plants and exotic animals. His travel book inspired and many other travellers. There is substantial literature based on Polo's writings; he also influenced European , leading to the introduction of the .


Birthplace and family origin

Marco Polo was born in 1254 in , capital of the . His father, , had his household in Venice and left Marco's pregnant mother in order to travel to Asia with his brother . Their return to Italy in order to "go to Venice and visit their household" is described in ' as follows: "...they departed from and went to , and from Negropont they continued their voyage to Venice. On their arrival there, Messer Nicolas found that his wife was dead and that she had left behind her a son of fifteen years of age, whose name was Marco". His first known ancestor was a , Marco Polo (the older) from Venice, who lent some money and commanded a ship in . Andrea, Marco's grandfather, lived in Venice in " , he had three sons: Marco "the older", and (Marco's father).
online copy pp. 24–25
Some old Venetian historical sources considered Polo's ancestors to be of far n origin.


Marco Polo is most often mentioned in the archives of the Republic of Venice as , which means Marco Polo of the of . However, he was also nicknamed during his lifetime (which in Italian literally means 'Million'). In fact, the Italian title of his book was , which means "The Book of Marco Polo, nicknamed '. According to the 15th-century humanist , his fellow citizens awarded him this nickname when he came back to Venice because he kept on saying that Kublai Khan's wealth was counted in millions. More precisely, he was nicknamed (Mr Marco Millions). However, since also his father Niccolò was nicknamed , 19th-century philologist Luigi Foscolo Benedetto was persuaded that was a shortened version of , and that this nickname was used to distinguish Niccolò's and Marco's branch from other Polo families. (, ''MARCO POLO E IL LIBRO DELLE MERAVIGLIE – Dialogo in tre tempi del giornalista Qualunquelli Junior e dell'astrologo Barbaverde'', Milano, Mondadori, 1954, p.26)

Early life and Asian travel

In 1168, his great-uncle, Marco Polo, borrowed money and commanded a ship in Constantinople. His grandfather, Andrea Polo of the parish of San Felice, had three sons, Maffeo, yet another Marco, and the traveller's father Niccolò. This genealogy, described by , is not universally accepted as there is no additional evidence to support it. His father, , a merchant, traded with the , becoming wealthy and achieving great prestige. Niccolò and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage before Marco's birth.Italiani nel sistema solare
di Michele T. Mazzucato
In 1260, Niccolò and Maffeo, while residing in Constantinople, then the capital of the , foresaw a political change; they liquidated their assets into jewels and moved away. According to ''The Travels of Marco Polo'', they passed through much of Asia, and met with , a Mongol ruler and founder of the . Their decision to leave Constantinople proved timely. In 1261 , the ruler of the , took Constantinople, promptly burned the Venetian quarter and re-established the . Captured Venetian citizens were blinded, while many of those who managed to escape perished aboard overloaded refugee ships fleeing to other Venetian colonies in the Aegean Sea. Almost nothing is known about the childhood of Marco Polo until he was fifteen years old, except that he probably spent part of his childhood in Venice. Meanwhile, Marco Polo's mother died, and an aunt and uncle raised him. He received a good education, learning mercantile subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships; he learned little or no . His father later married Floradise Polo (née Trevisan). In 1269, Niccolò and Maffeo returned to their families in Venice, meeting young Marco for the first time. In 1271, during the rule of , Marco Polo (at seventeen years of age), his father, and his uncle set off for Asia on the series of adventures that Marco later documented in his book. They sailed to and later rode on their camels to the Persian port . During the first stages of the journey, they stayed for a few months in Acre and were able to speak with Archdeacon . The Polo family, on that occasion, had expressed their regret at the long lack of a pope, because on their previous trip to China they had received a letter from Kublai Khan to the Pope, and had thus had to leave for China disappointed. During the trip, however, they received news that after 33 months of vacation, finally, the had elected the new Pope and that he was exactly the archdeacon of Acre. The three of them hurried to return to the Holy Land, where the new Pope entrusted them with letters for the "Great Khan", inviting him to send his emissaries to Rome. To give more weight to this mission he sent with the Polos, as his legates, two fathers, Guglielmo of Tripoli and Nicola of Piacenza. They continued overland until they arrived at 's place in , China (then known as ). By this time, Marco was 21 years old. Impressed by Marco's intelligence and humility, Khan appointed him to serve as his foreign emissary to and . He was sent on many diplomatic missions throughout his empire and in Southeast Asia, (such as in present-day , and ), but also entertained the Khan with stories and observations about the lands he saw. As part of this appointment, Marco travelled extensively inside China, living in the emperor's lands for 17 years. Kublai initially refused several times to let the Polos return to Europe, as he appreciated their company and they became useful to him. However, around 1291, he finally granted permission, entrusting the Polos with his last duty: accompany the Mongol princess , who was to become the consort of , in Persia (see ' section). After leaving the princess, the Polos travelled overland to Constantinople. They later decided to return to their home. They returned to Venice in 1295, after 24 years, with many riches and treasures. They had travelled almost .

Genoese captivity and later life

Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1295 with his fortune converted into s. At this time, Venice was at war with the .Nicol 1992, p. 219 Polo armed a galley equipped with a Yule, ''The Travels of Marco Polo'', London, 1870: reprinted by Dover, New York, 1983. to join the war. He was probably caught by Genoans in a skirmish in 1296, off the between and the (and not during the (September 1298), off the Dalmatian coast, a claim which is due to a later tradition (16th century) recorded by ). He spent several months of his imprisonment dictating a detailed account of his travels to a fellow inmate, , who incorporated tales of his own as well as other collected anecdotes and current affairs from China. The book soon spread throughout Europe in form, and became known as ' ( title: ''Il Milione'', lit. "The Million", deriving from Polo's nickname "Milione". Original title in : ''Livres des Merveilles du Monde''). It depicts the Polos' journeys throughout Asia, giving Europeans their first comprehensive look into the inner workings of the , including China, India, and . Polo was finally released from captivity in August 1299, and returned home to Venice, where his father and uncle in the meantime had purchased a large in the zone named ''contrada San Giovanni Crisostomo'' (Corte del Milion). For such a venture, the Polo family probably invested profits from trading, and even many gemstones they brought from the East. The company continued its activities and Marco soon became a wealthy merchant. Marco and his uncle Maffeo financed other expeditions, but likely never left Venetian provinces, nor returned to the and Asia. Sometime before 1300, his father Niccolò died. In 1300, he married Donata Badoèr, the daughter of Vitale Badoèr, a merchant. They had three daughters, Fantina (married Marco Bragadin), Bellela (married Bertuccio Querini), and Moreta. philosopher, doctor and astrologer based in , reports having spoken with Marco Polo about what he had observed in the vault of the sky during his travels. Marco told him that during his return trip to the , he had spotted what he describes in a drawing as a star "shaped like a sack" (in : ''ut sacco'') with a big tail (''magna habens caudam''), most likely a . Astronomers agree that there were no comets sighted in Europe at the end of 1200, but there are records about a comet sighted in China and Indonesia in 1293. Interestingly, this circumstance does not appear in . Peter D'Abano kept the drawing in his volume "Conciliator Differentiarum, quæ inter Philosophos et Medicos Versantur". Marco Polo gave Pietro other astronomical observations he made in the , and also a description of the , which are collected in the ''Conciliator''. In 1305 he is mentioned in a Venetian document among local sea captains regarding the payment of taxes. His relation with a certain Marco Polo, who in 1300 was mentioned with riots against the aristocratic government, and escaped the death penalty, as well as riots from 1310 led by and Marco Querini, among whose rebels were Jacobello and Francesco Polo from another family branch, is unclear. Polo is clearly mentioned again after 1305 in Maffeo's testament from 1309–1310, in a 1319 document according to which he became owner of some estates of his deceased father, and in 1321, when he bought part of the family property of his wife Donata.


In 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness. On January 8, 1324, despite physicians' efforts to treat him, Polo was on his deathbed. To write and certify the will, his family requested Giovanni Giustiniani, a priest of San Procolo. His wife, Donata, and his three daughters were appointed by him as . The church was entitled by law to a portion of his estate; he approved of this and ordered that a further sum be paid to the convent of , the place where he wished to be buried. He also set free Peter, a , who may have accompanied him from Asia, and to whom Polo bequeathed 100 lire of Venetian denari. He divided up the rest of his assets, including several properties, among individuals, religious institutions, and every guild and fraternity to which he belonged. He also wrote off multiple debts including 300 lire that his sister-in-law owed him, and others for the convent of , , and a cleric named Benvenuto. He ordered 220  be paid to Giovanni Giustiniani for his work as a notary and his prayers. The will was not signed by Polo, but was validated by the then-relevant "" rule, by which the testator only had to touch the document to make it legally valid.Biblioteca Marciana, the institute that holds Polo's original copy of his testament
/ref> Due to the Venetian law stating that the day ends at sunset, the exact date of Marco Polo's death cannot be determined, but according to some scholars it was between the sunsets of January 8 and 9, 1324. , which holds the original copy of his testament, dates the testament on January 9, 1323, and gives the date of his death at some time in June 1324.

''The Travels of Marco Polo''

An authoritative version of Marco Polo's book does not and cannot exist, for the early manuscripts differ significantly, and the reconstruction of the original text is a matter of . A total of about 150 copies in various languages are known to exist. Before the availability of , errors were frequently made during copying and translating, so there are many differences between the various copies. Polo related his memoirs orally to while both were prisoners of the . Rustichello wrote ' in .Maria Bellonci, "Nota introduttiva", Il Milione di Marco Polo, Milano, Oscar Mondadori, 2003, p. XI The idea probably was to create a , essentially a text on weights, measures and distances. The oldest surviving manuscript is in heavily flavoured with Italian; According to the Italian scholar Luigi Foscolo Benedetto, this "F" text is the basic original text, which he corrected by comparing it with the somewhat more detailed Italian of Giovanni Battista Ramusio, together with a Latin manuscript in the . Other early important sources are R (Ramusio's Italian translation first printed in 1559), and Z (a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript kept at Toledo, Spain). Another Old French Polo manuscript, dating to around 1350, is held by the National Library of Sweden. One of the early manuscripts ''Iter Marci Pauli Veneti'' was a translation into Latin made by the in 1302, just a few years after Marco's return to Venice. Since Latin was then the most widespread and authoritative language of culture, it is suggested that Rustichello's text was translated into Latin for a precise will of the , and this helped to promote the book on a European scale. The first English translation is the Elizabethan version by published in 1579, ''The most noble and famous travels of Marco Polo'', based on Santaella's translation of 1503 (the first version in that language). The published editions of Polo's book rely on single manuscripts, blend multiple versions together, or add notes to clarify, for example in the English translation by . The 1938 English translation by Moule and is based on a Latin manuscript found in the library of the in 1932, and is 50% longer than other versions. The popular translation published by Penguin Books in 1958 by works several texts together to make a readable whole.


The book opens with a preface describing his father and uncle travelling to where Prince lived. A year later, they went to and continued to . There, an envoy from the invited them to meet , who had never met Europeans. In 1266, they reached the seat of Kublai Khan at , present-day , China. Kublai received the brothers with hospitality and asked them many questions regarding the European legal and political system. He also inquired about the Pope and Church in Rome. After the brothers answered the questions he tasked them with delivering a letter to the Pope, requesting 100 Christians acquainted with the (grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy). Kublai Khan requested also that an envoy bring him back . The long ' between the death of in 1268 and the election of his successor delayed the Polos in fulfilling Kublai's request. They followed the suggestion of Theobald Visconti, then for the realm of , and returned to Venice in 1269 or 1270 to await the nomination of the new Pope, which allowed Marco to see his father for the first time, at the age of fifteen or sixteen. In 1271, Niccolò, Maffeo and Marco Polo embarked on their voyage to fulfil Kublai's request. They sailed to , and then rode on camels to the Persian port of . The Polos wanted to sail straight into China, but the ships there were not seaworthy, so they continued overland through the , until reaching Kublai's summer palace in , near present-day . In one instance during their trip, the Polos joined a caravan of travelling merchants whom they crossed paths with. Unfortunately, the party was soon attacked by , who used the cover of a sandstorm to ambush them. The Polos managed to fight and escape through a nearby town, but many members of the caravan were killed or enslaved. Three and a half years after leaving Venice, when Marco was about 21 years old, the Polos were welcomed by Kublai into his palace. The exact date of their arrival is unknown, but scholars estimate it to be between 1271 and 1275. On reaching the Yuan court, the Polos presented the sacred oil from Jerusalem and the papal letters to their patron. Marco knew four languages, and the family had accumulated a great deal of knowledge and experience that was useful to Kublai. It is possible that he became a government official; he wrote about many imperial visits to China's southern and eastern provinces, the far south and . They were highly respected and sought after in the Mongolian court, and so Kublai Khan decided to decline the Polos' requests to leave China. They became worried about returning home safely, believing that if Kublai died, his enemies might turn against them because of their close involvement with the ruler. In 1292, Kublai's great-nephew, then ruler of , sent representatives to China in search of a potential wife, and they asked the Polos to accompany them, so they were permitted to return to Persia with the wedding party—which left that same year from in southern China on a fleet of 14 . The party sailed to the port of , travelled north to , and around the southern tip of India, eventually crossing the to . The two-year voyage was a perilous one—of the six hundred people (not including the crew) in the convoy only eighteen had survived (including all three Polos). The Polos left the wedding party after reaching Hormuz and travelled overland to the port of Trebizond on the , the present-day .

Role of Rustichello

The British scholar has pointed out that ''The Book of Marvels'' was, in fact, a collaboration written in 1298–1299 between Polo and a professional writer of romances, Rustichello of Pisa.Latham, Ronald "Introduction" pp. 7–20 from ''The Travels of Marco Polo'', London: Folio Society, 1958 p. 11. It is believed that Polo related his memoirs orally to while both were prisoners of the . Rustichello wrote ' in , which was the language of culture widespread in northern Italy between the subalpine belt and the lower Po between the 13th and 15th centuries. Latham also argued that Rustichello may have glamorised Polo's accounts, and added fantastic and romantic elements that made the book a bestseller. The Italian scholar Luigi Foscolo Benedetto had previously demonstrated that the book was written in the same "leisurely, conversational style" that characterised Rustichello's other works, and that some passages in the book were taken verbatim or with minimal modifications from other writings by Rustichello. For example, the opening introduction in ''The Book of Marvels'' to "emperors and kings, dukes and marquises" was lifted straight out of an Rustichello had written several years earlier, and the account of the second meeting between Polo and Kublai Khan at the latter's court is almost the same as that of the arrival of at the court of at in that same book. Latham believed that many elements of the book, such as legends of the Middle East and mentions of exotic marvels, may have been the work of Rustichello who was giving what medieval European readers expected to find in a travel book.Latham, Ronald "Introduction" pp. 7–20 from ''The Travels of Marco Polo'', London: Folio Society, 1958 p. 12.

Role of the Dominican Order

Apparently, from the very beginning, Marco's story aroused contrasting reactions, as it was received by some with a certain disbelief. The was the author of a translation into Latin, ''Iter Marci Pauli Veneti'' in 1302, just a few years after Marco's return to Venice. Francesco Pipino solemnly affirmed the truthfulness of the book and defined Marco as a "prudent, honoured and faithful man". inaldo Fulin, Archivio Veneto, 1924, p. 255/ref> In his writings, the Jacopo d'Acqui explains why his contemporaries were sceptical about the content of the book. He also relates that before dying, Marco Polo insisted that "he had told only a half of the things he had seen". According to some recent research of the Italian scholar Antonio Montefusco, the very close relationship that Marco Polo cultivated with members of the in Venice suggests that local fathers collaborated with him for a Latin version of the book, which means that Rustichello's text was translated into Latin for a precise will of the Order. Since Dominican fathers had among their that of evangelizing foreign peoples (cf. the role of Dominican missionaries in China and in the Indies), it is reasonable to think that they considered Marco's book as a trustworthy piece of information for in the East. The between and with the Mongols were probably another reason for this endorsement. At the time, there was open discussion of a possible Christian-Mongul alliance with an anti-Islamic function.Jean Richard, ''Histoire des Croisades'' (Paris: Fayard 1996), p.465 In fact, a Mongol delegate was solemny baptised at the . At the council, Pope Gregory X promulgated a new to start in 1278 in liaison with the Mongols.

Authenticity and veracity

Since its publication, some have viewed the book with skepticism. Some in the Middle Ages regarded the book simply as a romance or fable, due largely to the sharp difference of its descriptions of a sophisticated civilisation in China to other early accounts by and , who portrayed the Mongols as 's' who appeared to belong to 'some other world'. Doubts have also been raised in later centuries about Marco Polo's narrative of his travels in China, for example for his failure to mention the , and in particular the difficulties in identifying many of the place names he used (the great majority, however, have since been identified). Many have questioned whether he had visited the places he mentioned in his itinerary, whether he had appropriated the accounts of his father and uncle or other travellers, and some doubted whether he even reached China, or that if he did, perhaps never went beyond (Beijing). It has, however, been pointed out that Polo's accounts of China are more accurate and detailed than other travellers' accounts of the periods. Polo had at times refuted the 'marvellous' fables and legends given in other European accounts, and despite some exaggerations and errors, Polo's accounts have relatively few of the descriptions of irrational marvels. In many cases where present (mostly given in the first part before he reached China, such as mentions of Christian miracles), he made a clear distinction that they are what he had heard rather than what he had seen. It is also largely free of the gross errors found in other accounts such as those given by the Moroccan traveller who had confused the with the and other waterways, and believed that was made from coal. Modern studies have further shown that details given in Marco Polo's book, such as the currencies used, salt productions and revenues, are accurate and unique. Such detailed descriptions are not found in other non-Chinese sources, and their accuracy is supported by archaeological evidence as well as Chinese records compiled after Polo had left China. His accounts are therefore unlikely to have been obtained second hand. Other accounts have also been verified; for example, when visiting in , China, Marco Polo noted that a large number of es had been built there. His claim is confirmed by a Chinese text of the 14th century explaining how a n named Mar-Sargis from founded six there in addition to one in during the second half of the 13th century. His story of the princess sent from China to Persia to marry the Īl-khān is also confirmed by independent sources in both Persia and China.

Scholarly analyses

Explaining omissions

Sceptics have long wondered whether Marco Polo wrote his book based on hearsay, with some pointing to omissions about noteworthy practices and structures of China as well as the lack of details on some places in his book. While Polo describes and the burning of coal, he fails to mention the , , , s, or . His failure to note the presence of the Great Wall of China was first raised in the middle of the seventeenth century, and in the middle of the eighteenth century, it was suggested that he might have never reached China. Later scholars such as John W. Haeger argued that Marco Polo might not have visited Southern China due to the lack of details in his description of southern Chinese cities compared to northern ones, while also raised the possibility that Marco Polo might not have been to China at all, and wondered if he might have based his accounts on Persian sources due to his use of Persian expressions. This is taken further by Dr. who claimed in her 1995 book ' that at best Polo never went farther east than Persia (modern Iran), and that there is nothing in ''The Book of Marvels'' about China that could not be obtained via reading Persian books.Morgan, D.O. "Marco Polo in China—Or Not" 221–225 from ''The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'', Volume 6, Issue # July 2, 1996 p. 222. Wood maintains that it is more probable that Polo only went to Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) and some of the Italian merchant colonies around the Black Sea, picking hearsay from those travellers who had been farther east. Supporters of Polo's basic accuracy countered on the points raised by sceptics such as footbinding and the Great Wall of China. Historian argued that the Great Walls were built to keep out northern invaders, whereas the ruling dynasty during Marco Polo's visit were those very northern invaders. They note that the Great Wall familiar to us today is a structure built some two centuries after Marco Polo's travels; and that the rulers whom Polo served controlled territories both north and south of today's wall, and would have no reasons to maintain any fortifications that may have remained there from the earlier dynasties. Other Europeans who travelled to during the Yuan dynasty, such as and , said nothing about the wall either. The Muslim traveller , who asked about the wall when he visited China during the Yuan dynasty, could find no one who had either seen it or knew of anyone who had seen it, suggesting that while ruins of the wall constructed in the earlier periods might have existed, they were not significant or noteworthy at that time. Haw also argued that footbinding was not common even among Chinese during Polo's time and almost unknown among the Mongols. While the Italian missionary who visited China mentioned footbinding (it is however unclear whether he was merely relaying something he had heard as his description is inaccurate), no other foreign visitors to China mentioned the practice, perhaps an indication that the footbinding was not widespread or was not practised in an extreme form at that time. Marco Polo himself noted (in the Toledo manuscript) the dainty walk of Chinese women who took very short steps. It has also been noted by other scholars that many of the things not mentioned by Marco Polo such as tea and chopsticks were not mentioned by other travellers as well. Haw also pointed out that despite the few omissions, Marco Polo's account is more extensive, more accurate and more detailed than those of other foreign travellers to China in this period. Marco Polo even observed Chinese such as the s of in , knowledge of which he was keen to share with his fellow Venetians. In addition to Haw, a number of other scholars have argued in favour of the established view that Polo was in China in response to Wood's book. Wood's book has been criticized by figures including (translator and annotator of ') and Morris Rossabi (author of ''Kublai Khan: his life and times''). The historian points out basic errors made in Wood's book such as confusing the with the , and he found no compelling evidence in the book that would convince him that Marco Polo did not go to China. Haw also argues in his book ''Marco Polo's China'' that Marco's account is much more correct and accurate than has often been supposed and that it is extremely unlikely that he could have obtained all the information in his book from second-hand sources. Haw also criticizes Wood's approach to finding mention of Marco Polo in Chinese texts by contending that contemporaneous Europeans had little regard for using and that a direct Chinese of the name "Marco" ignores the possibility of him taking on a or even with no bearing or similarity with his . Also in reply to Wood, Jørgen Jensen recalled the meeting of Marco Polo and in the late 13th century. During this meeting, Marco gave to Pietro details of the astronomical observations he had made on his journey. These observations are only compatible with Marco's stay in China, and the and are recorded in Pietro's book ''Conciliator Differentiarum'', but not in Marco's ''Book of Travels''. Reviewing Haw's book, (author of ''The Mongols and the West'') has said that Haw "must surely now have settled the controversy surrounding the historicity of Polo's visit to China". Igor de Rachewiltz's review, which refutes Wood's points, concludes with a strongly-worded condemnation: "I regret to say that F. W.'s book falls short of the standard of scholarship that one would expect in a work of this kind. Her book can only be described as deceptive, both in relation to the author and to the public at large. Questions are posted that, in the majority of cases, have already been answered satisfactorily ... her attempt is unprofessional; she is poorly equipped in the basic tools of the trade, i.e., adequate linguistic competence and research methodology ... and her major arguments cannot withstand close scrutiny. Her conclusion fails to consider all the evidence supporting Marco Polo's credibility."

Allegations of exaggeration

Some scholars believe that Marco Polo exaggerated his importance in China. The British historian thought that Polo had likely exaggerated and lied about his status in China, while Ronald Latham believed that such exaggerations were embellishments by his ghostwriter . This sentence in ''The Book of Marvels'' was interpreted as Marco Polo was "the governor" of the city of "Yangiu" for three years, and later of . This claim has raised some controversy. According to no Chinese source mentions him as either a friend of the Emperor or as the governor of Yangzhou – indeed no Chinese source mentions Marco Polo at all.Morgan, D.O. "Marco Polo in China—Or Not" 221–225 from ''The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'', Volume 6, Issue # July 2, 1996 p. 223. In fact, in the 1960s the German historian noted that all occurrences of Po-lo or Bolod in Yuan texts were names of people of Mongol or Turkic extraction. However, in the 2010s the Chinese scholar identified Marco Polo with a certain "Boluo", a courtier of the emperor, who is mentioned in the ("History of Yuan") since he was arrested in 1274 by an imperial dignitary named Saman. The accusation was that Boluo had walked on the same side of the road as a female courtesan, in contravention of the order for men and women to walk on opposite sides of the road inside the city. According to the "Yuanshi" records, Boluo was released at the request of the emperor himself, and was then transferred to the region of Ningxia, in the northeast of present-day China, in the spring of 1275. The date could correspond to the first mission of which Marco Polo speaks. If this identification is correct, there is a record about Marco Polo in Chinese sources. These conjectures seem to be supported by the fact that in addition to the imperial dignitary Saman (the one who had arrested the official named "Boluo"), the documents mention his brother, Xiangwei. According to sources, Saman died shortly after the incident, while Xiangwei was transferred to Yangzhou in 1282–1283. Marco Polo reports that he was moved to Hangzhou the following year, in 1284. It has been supposed that these displacements are due to the intention to avoid further conflicts between the two., "Marco Polo. Viaggio ai confini del Medioevo", Collezione Le Scie. Nuova serie, Milano, Mondadori, 2018, , § "Boluo, il funzionario invisibile The sinologist thought that Polo might have served as an officer of the government salt monopoly in Yangzhou, which was a position of some significance that could explain the exaggeration. It may seem unlikely that a European could hold a position of power in the Mongolian empire. However, some records prove he was not the first nor the only one. In his book, Marco mentions an official named "Mar Sarchis" who probably was a , and he says he founded two Christian churches in the region of "Caigiu". This official is actually mentioned in the local gazette ''Zhishun Zhenjian zhi'' under the name "Ma Xuelijisi" and the qualification of "General of Third Class". Always in the gazette, it is said Ma Xuelijsi was an assistant supervisor in the province of Zhenjiang for three years, and that during this time he founded two Christian churches. In fact, it is a well-documented fact that trusted foreigners more than Chinese subjects in internal affairs. challenges this idea that Polo exaggerated his own importance, writing that, "contrary to what has often been said ... Marco does not claim any very exalted position for himself in the Yuan empire."Stephen G. Haw (2006), ''Marco Polo's China: a Venetian in the Realm of Kublai Khan'', London & New York: Routledge, p. 173, . He points out that Polo never claimed to hold high rank, such as a ', who led a ' – a unit that was normally 10,000 strong. In fact, Polo does not even imply that he had led 1,000 personnel. Haw points out that Polo himself appears to state only that he had been an emissary of the , in a position with some esteem. According to Haw, this is a reasonable claim if Polo was, for example, a ' – a member of the imperial guard by the same name, which included as many as 14,000 individuals at the time. Haw explains how the earliest s of Polo's accounts provide contradicting information about his role in Yangzhou, with some stating he was just a simple resident, others stating he was a governor, and claiming he was simply holding that office as a temporary substitute for someone else, yet all the manuscripts concur that he worked as an esteemed emissary for the khan. Haw also objected to the approach to finding mention of Marco Polo in Chinese texts, contending that contemporaneous Europeans had little regard for using , and a direct of the name "Marco" ignores the possibility of him taking on a or even that had no bearing or similarity with his . Another controversial claim is at chapter 145 when the Book of Marvels states that the three Polos provided the Mongols with technical advice on building s during the , Since the siege was over in 1273, before Marco Polo had arrived in China for the first time, the claim cannot be true The Mongol army that besieged Xiangyang did have foreign military engineers, but they were mentioned in Chinese sources as being from and had Arabic names. In this respect, recalls that the claim that the ''three'' Polo were present at the siege of Xiang-yang is not present in all manuscripts, but Niccolò and Matteo could have made this suggestion. Therefore, this claim seems a subsequent addition to give more credibility to the story.


A number of errors in Marco Polo's account have been noted: for example, he described the bridge later known as as having twenty-four arches instead of eleven or thirteen. He also said that city wall of Khanbaliq had twelve gates when it had only eleven. Archaeologists have also pointed out that Polo may have mixed up the details from the two by in 1274 and 1281. Polo wrote of five- ships, when archaeological excavations found that the ships, in fact, had only three masts.


Wood accused Marco Polo of taking other people's accounts in his book, retelling other stories as his own, or basing his accounts on Persian guidebooks or other lost sources. For example, Sinologist noted that Polo's account of the voyage of the princess from China to Persia to marry the Īl-khān in 1293 has been confirmed by a passage in the 15th-century Chinese work ' and by the Persian historian in his work '. However, neither of these accounts mentions Polo or indeed any European as part of the bridal party, and Wood used the lack of mention of Polo in these works as an example of Polo's "retelling of a well-known tale". Morgan, in Polo's defence, noted that even the princess herself was not mentioned in the Chinese source and that it would have been surprising if Polo had been mentioned by Rashid-al-Din. Historian strongly criticised Wood's arguments in his review of her book.Igor de Rachewiltz, "Marco Polo Went to China," ''Zentralasiatische Studien'' 27 (1997), pp. 34–92 Rachewiltz argued that Marco Polo's account, in fact, allows the Persian and Chinese sources to be reconciled – by relaying the information that two of the three envoys sent (mentioned in the Chinese source and whose names accord with those given by Polo) had died during the voyage, it explains why only the third who survived, Coja/Khoja, was mentioned by Rashìd al-Dìn. Polo had therefore completed the story by providing information not found in either source. He also noted that the only Persian source that mentions the princess was not completed until 1310–11, therefore Marco Polo could not have learned the information from any Persian book. According to de Rachewiltz, the concordance of Polo's detailed account of the princess with other independent sources that gave only incomplete information is proof of the veracity of Polo's story and his presence in China.


Morgan writes that since much of what ''The Book of Marvels'' has to say about China is "demonstrably correct", any claim that Polo did not go to China "creates far more problems than it solves", therefore the "balance of probabilities" strongly suggests that Polo really did go to China, even if he exaggerated somewhat his importance in China. Haw dismisses the various anachronistic criticisms of Polo's accounts that started in the 17th century, and highlights Polo's accuracy in great part of his accounts, for example on features of the landscape such as the . "If Marco was a liar," Haw writes, "then he must have been an implausibly meticulous one." In 2012, the Sinologist and historian Hans Ulrich Vogel released a detailed analysis of Polo's description of currencies, and revenues, and argued that the evidence supports his presence in China because he included details which he could not have otherwise known. Vogel noted that no other Western, Arab, or Persian sources have given such accurate and unique details about the currencies of China, for example, the shape and size of the paper, the use of seals, the various denominations of paper money as well as variations in currency usage in different regions of China, such as the use of s in Yunnan, details supported by archaeological evidence and Chinese sources compiled long after the Polos had left China. His accounts of salt production and revenues from the salt monopoly are also accurate, and accord with Chinese documents of the Yuan era. Economic historian , in his preface to Vogel's 2013 monograph, concludes that Vogel "demonstrates by specific example after specific example the ultimately overwhelming probability of the broad authenticity" of Polo's account. Many problems were caused by the oral transmission of the original text and the proliferation of significantly different hand-copied manuscripts. For instance, did Polo exert "political authority" (''seignora'') in Yangzhou or merely "sojourn" (''sejourna'') there? Elvin concludes that "those who doubted, although mistaken, were not always being casual or foolish", but "the case as a whole had now been closed": the book is, "in essence, authentic, and, when used with care, in broad terms to be trusted as a serious though obviously not always final, witness."


Further exploration

Other lesser-known European explorers had already travelled to China, such as , but Polo's book meant that his journey was the first to be widely known. was inspired enough by Polo's description of the Far East to want to visit those lands for himself; a copy of the book was among his belongings, with handwritten annotations. , inspired by Polo's writings of a Christian kingdom in the east, travelled in three years across Central Asia. He never found the kingdom but ended his travels at the in 1605, proving that Cathay was what (1552–1610) called "China".


Marco Polo's travels may have had some influence on the development of European , ultimately leading to the a century later. The 1453 was said by (disputed by historian/cartographer Piero Falchetta, in whose work the quote appears) to have been partially based on the one brought from by Marco Polo: Though Marco Polo never produced a map that illustrated his journey, his family drew several maps to the Far East based on the traveller's accounts. These collections of maps were signed by Polo's three daughters, Fantina, Bellela and Moreta. Not only did it contain maps of his journey, but also sea routes to Japan, Siberia's , the and even to the coastlines of , centuries before the rediscovery of the Americas by Europeans.

Pasta myth

There is a legend about Marco Polo importing from China; however, it is actually a , originating with the ''Macaroni Journal'', published by a food industry association with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States. Marco Polo describes in his book a food similar to "", but he uses a term with which he was already familiar. In fact, pasta had already been invented in Italy a long time before Marco Polo's travels to Asia. According to the newsletter of the and food writer , the was introduced by Arabs from Libya, over in the late 9th century, thus predating Marco Polo's travels by about four centuries. Steingarten also mentioned that believed the Marco Polo story to have originated in the 1920s or 30s in an advertisement for a Canadian spaghetti company.


The , a subspecies of ', is named after the explorer, who described it during his crossing of (ancient ) in 1271. In 1851, a three-masted built in Saint John, New Brunswick also took his name; the was the first ship to sail around the world in under six months. The airport in is named . The of Hong Kong is known as the "Marco Polo Club". 's () ship connecting with in is named after Marco Polo.

Arts, entertainment, and media


= * ' (1938), directed by * ' (1961) * ' (1965) * ' (1973), directed by * ''Marco Polo'' (馬哥波羅) (1975), directed by *' (1972), Australian animated film by


= * The game "" is a form of played in a or on land, with slightly modified rules. * Polo appears as a Great Explorer in the strategy video game ' (2008). * Marco Polo's 1292 voyage from is used as a backdrop for the plot of ' (2009), where (the protagonist) searches for the , which was from the fabled city of . * A board game 'The Voyages of Marco Polo' plays over a map of Eurasia, with multiple routes to 'recreate' Polo's journey.


= The travels of Marco Polo are fictionalised in a number works, such as: * 's ''Messer Marco Polo'' (1921) * 's novel ' (1972), in which Polo appears as a pivotal character. * ' novel ' (1984) * 's novel (written with ) ' (1988), a serio-comic fantasy with Polo as the protagonist. * ' (2007), in which facts about Polo's travels and conjecture about secrets he kept are interleaved with modern-day action.


= * Marco Polo was portrayed by in the serial of the of the television series ' (1964). * The television miniseries, ' (1982), featuring , and , and directed by , depicts Polo's travels. It won two s, and was nominated for six more. (Searching for "Marco Polo", and year 1982) * The television film, ' (2007), starring as Kublai Khan, and as Marco, portrays Marco Polo being left alone in China while his uncle and father return to Venice, to be reunited with him many years later. * ' (2009) is a documentary about two friends ( and Francis O'Donnell) who conceived of the ultimate road trip to retrace Marco Polo's journey from Venice to China via land and sea. * ' (2013), a Croatian documentary miniseries written and directed by Miro Branković. * ' (2014–2016) is a television drama series about Marco Polo's early years in the court of created by .

See also

* * * , Uyghur Nestorian Christian monk from (, modern Beijing) who led a Mongol diplomatic mission to medieval European monarchs and the pope, visiting Greece, Italy, and France * , which Marco Polo travelled * (d. 1342), an Italian woman whose tombstone was found in , China




Marco Polo, ''Marci Poli Veneti de Regionibus Orientalibus'', Simon Grynaeus Johannes Huttichius, ''Novus Orbis Regionum ac Insularum Veteribus Incognitarum,'' Basel, 1532, pp. 350–418.
* * * * * * (Article republished in 2006 World Almanac Books, available online fro
* * * * * , ''Le grand festin de l'Orient''; Robert Laffont, 2004 * * * * * * * * * Marco Polo. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2010-08-28, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
Marco Polo , Biography, Travels, & Influence

Further reading

* * * * * * * * , ''Sur les routes de la soie'' (On the Silk Roads) (with ), Hoëbeke, 2007 * (Young Adult novel)

External links

Marco Polo

* ttp://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/data/2001/07/01/sights_n_sounds/media.2.2.html National Geographic Marco Polo: Journey from Venice to China* * *
Marco Polo’s Orient
Film on the material culture of areas along Polo's route using objects from the collections of the {{DEFAULTSORT:Polo, Marco People of the War of Curzola