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 Polos
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.

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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 Venices 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 Constantinople, and Marcos uncle, for whom he was named, had a home
in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8). From Sudak, around 1260, another
uncle, Maffeo, and Marcos 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 mothers 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).

Lifes 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 popes messages, the only spiritual gift Europe was able to furnish
the great Kublai Khan was oil from the lamp burning at Jesus Christs
supposed tomb in Jerusalem. Yet, in a sense, young Marco, the only new
person in the Polos party, was himself a fitting representative of the
spirit of European civilization on the eve of the Renaissance, and the
lack of one hundred learned Europeans guaranteed that he would catch the
eye of the Cowan, who was curious about Latins”(Hull 29).

On the way to the khans court, Marco had the opportunity to complete
his education. The journey took three and a half years by horseback
through some of the worlds most rugged terrain, including snowy
mountain ranges, such as the Pamirs, and parching deserts, such as the
Gobi. Marco and his party encountered such hazards as wild beasts and
brigands; they also met with beautiful women, in whom young Marco took a
special interest. The group traveled numerous countries and cultures,
noting food, dress, and religion unique to each(Li Man Kin 17). In
particular, under the khanss protection the Polos were able to observe
a large portion of the Islamic world at close range, as few if any
European Christians had. By the time they reached the khans court in
Khanbalik, Marco had become a hardened traveler. He had also received a
unique education and had been initiated into manhood.


Kublai Khan greeted the Polos warmly and invited them to stay on in his
court. Here, if Marcos account is to be believed, the Polos became
great favorites of the khan, and Kublai
eventually made Marco one of his most trusted emissaries(Great Lives
from History 16765). On these points Marco has been accused of gross
exaggeration, and the actual status of the Polos at the court of the
khan is much disputed. If at first it appears unlikely that Kublai
would make young Marco an emissary, upon examination this seems quite
reasonable. For political reasons, the khan was in the habit of
appointing foreigners to administer conquered lands, particularly China,
where the tenacity of the Chinese bureaucracy was legendary. The khan
could also observe for himself that young Marco was a good candidate.
Finally, Marco reported back so successfully from his fist
mission-informing the khan not only on business details but also on
colorful customs and other interesting trivia-that his further
appointment was confirmed. The journeys specifically mentioned in
Marcos book, involving travel across China and a sea voyage to India,
suggests that the khan did indeed trust him with some of the most
difficult missions(Rugoff 25).

The Polos stayed on for seventeen years, another indication of how
valued they were in the khans court. Marco, his father, and his uncle
not only survived-itself an achievement amid the political hazards of
the time-but also prospered(Great Lives from History 1678). Apparently,
the elder Polos carried on their trading while Marco was performing his
missions; yet seventeen years is a long time to trade without returning
home to family and friends. According to Macro, because the khan held
them in such high regard, he would not let them return home, but as the
khan aged the Polos began to fear what would happen after his death(Hull
18). Finally an opportunity to leave presented itself when trusted
emissaries were needed to accompany a Mongol princess on a wedding
voyage by sea to Persia, where she was promised to the local khan. The
Polos sailed from Cathay with a fleet of fourteen ships and a wedding
party of six hundred people, not
counting the sailors. Only a few members of the wedding entourage
survived the
journey of almost two years, but luckily the survivors included the
Polos and the princess. Fortunately, too, the Polos duly delivered the
princess not to the old khan of Persia, who had meanwhile died, but to
his son(Li Man Kin 21).

From Persia, the Polos made their way back to Venice. They were robbed
as soon as they got into Christian territory, but they still managed to
reach home in 1295, with plenty of rich goods. According to Giovanni
Battista Ramusio, one of the early editors of Marcos book, the Polos
strode into Venice looking like rugged Mongols(Stefoff 17). Having
thought them dead, their relatives at first did not recognize them, then
were astounded, and then were disgusted by their shabby appearance.
Yet, according to Ramusio, the scorn changed to delight when the
returned travelers invited everyone to a homecoming banquet, ripped
apart their old clothes, and let all the hidden jewels clatter to the
table(Great Lives from History 1676).

The rest of the world might have learned little about the Polos
travels if fate had not intervened in Marcos life. In his early
forties, Marco was not yet ready to settle down. Perhaps he was
restless for further adventure, or perhaps he felt obliged to fulfill
his civic duties to his native city-state. In any event, he became
involved in naval warfare between Venetians and their trading rivals,
the Genoese, and was captured. In 1298, the great traveler across Asia
and emissary of the khan found himself rotting in a prison in Genoa-an
experience that could have ended tragically but instead took a lucky
turn. In prison Marco met a man named Rustichello from Persia, who was
a writer of romances(Stefoff 21). To pass the time, Marco dictated his
observations about Asia to Rustichello, who, in writing them down,
probably employed the Italianized Old French that was the language of
medieval romances.

Their book was soon circulating, since Marco remained in prison only a
year or so, very likely gaining his freedom when the Venetians and
Genoese made peace in 1299(Rugoff 32).

After his prison experience, Marco was content to lead a quiet life in
Venice with the rest of his family and bask in his almost instant
literary fame. He married Donata Badoer, a member of the Venetian
aristocracy. eventually grew up to marry nobles. Thus Marco seems to
have spent the last part of his life moving in Venetian aristocratic
circles. After living what was then a long life,
Marco died in 1324, only seventy years of age. In his will he left most
of his modest wealth to his three daughters, a legacy that included
goods which he had brought back from Asia. His will also set free a
Tartar slave, who had remained with him since his return from the court
of the great khan(Li Man Kin 25).


Works Cited
Great Lives from History. Ancient and Medieval Series. Pasadena,
California: Salem Press, 1988. 2: 1675-1680.

Hull, Mary. The Travels of Marco Polo. California: Lucent Books Inc.,
1995.

Li Man Kin. Marco Polo in China. Hong Kong: Kingsway International
Publications, 1981.

Rugoff, Milton. Marco Polo’s Adventures In China. New York: American
Heritage Publishing Co., 1964.

Stefoff, Rebecca. Marco Polo and the Medieval Explorers. Chelsea House
Publishers, 1992.


Violenece In Schools
Thesis Statement
Violence in schools has spread widely throughout the nation. This has
caused many problems among students, families, faculty of schools, and
residents of the areas. In my paper I will discuss the reasons why
violence in schools exists and what could or should be done about it.