Biography of Marco Polo :- By the end of the thirteenth century, Venice remained one of the world’s largest commercial and maritime powers. It was common to hear there, in the shadow of the opal domes, beside the sumptuous palaces and in view of the golden gondolas, the most extraordinary stories and pilgrims.
But those that Master Marco Polo, newly arrived from the ends of the world, had eclipsed them all. He claimed to have seen black stones burning in the bowels of the earth in China, which burned better than wood. The Venetians, when they heard him, made fun of; for them, the charcoal stone was a most fantastic thing. He also spoke of another stone that could be spun as wool, but it was incombustible; its hearers burst with laughter: even harder to conceive than coal was asbestos.
Biography of Marco Polo
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However, it was not possible for a man, even gifted with a portentous fantasy, to imagine all that. Marco Polo had returned from his travels bringing with him great riches, among which perhaps the most valuable was the experience accumulated over twenty-four years of absence. A thousand incidents and unlikely events for his contemporaries crossed his mind. He had much to tell, for he was not one of the greatest travelers that humanity has ever known.
The book of wonders , which greatly enriched the geographical knowledge of the Europeans, is the only source (except some testament and many lawsuits) to which is sought for data on the life and miracles of Marco Polo and his , Since everything that could corroborate or deny what is said in it has never been found or, like its tomb, has disappeared. Of course, a book so fantastic (and for some so fanciful), that has suffered versions, interpretations and translations without story, has caused serious doubts, extensive discussions and some disqualification. Despite this, all scholars seem to agree that the Polo, traders of modest fortune, came from a Dalmatian family of Sabenico who settled in Venice in the eleventh century, and even quote Grandpa Andrea. Soon they integrated into the dynamic Venetian trading world, becoming a family of bold merchants. Marco’s grandfather had three children: Andrea, Nicolas and Mateo. To none of the three were their difficulties or distances restrained if they envisaged a substantial economic transaction.
Andrea, the eldest son, settled in Constantinople and established fruitful relations with the men of the caravans who came from distant lands beyond the Black Sea. News of Mongol conquests in Western Asia soon made a dent in his sharp business sense, so he called his brothers, who remained in Venice, and encouraged them not to miss out on this magnificent occasion of great business.
The history of the “wonderful traveler” began there in 1253, a few months before his birth and, as is strictly speaking, with a journey. His father, Nicolas Polo, took leave of his pregnant wife and, with his brother Mateo left for Constantinople in a galley full of wood, iron in ingots and forged, grain, woven wool and salted meat. The magnetic needle (recently imported) and the stars happily guided their way to the capital of the Greeks. Shortly after arriving, the woman of Nicholas gave birth in Venice, in 1254, to Marco.
Nothing is known of the first years of that child’s life that must have been running around the squares and bridges of Venice. Mother’s orphan very soon, it is believed that she lived in the care of her Aunt Flora. It seems that he received instruction, since he could read and write, but without doubt his best school was offered the Venice he wandered. A Venice that vibrated to the beat of business and punished more harshly crimes against property than those perpetrated against people.
Six years passed. While Marcus grew up in Venice, Nicholas and Matthew traded in Constantinople, until one day in 1259, uneasy at the threats they had over the city, they decided to abandon it to settle in the Crimea, in the city of Soldaia, where business was not as prosperous as they had hoped. They then entered the region of the steppes and settled in Bolger.
Two years later, nostalgia began to sting them, and in the spring of 1262, they prepared to return. But fate had other plans for them. A war broke out between Mongol kings and the return was complicated and full of danger. They resolved to travel to the rising sun and settled in Bukhara, waiting for a quiet route to return to Venice. The journey was not easy, but the Polo were a race of indefatigable pioneers; Bought here, sold there, learned strange tongues and discovered new markets, received good treatment everywhere and made good deals with the Mongols. These, who were so terrified of Christianity, turned out to be skilled managers who lived in peace with the subjugated peoples. The Muslim wall, which since the seventh century prevented all contact between China and the West, was no more than a simple curtain. The Polo brothers had been the first to cross it successfully.
In the city of Bukhara, in the heart of Asia and almost five thousand kilometers away from their home country, Mateo and Nicolás remained for three years, fully engaged in commerce. One day a commission arrived to them from the great Kublai Khan, whose empire stretched from the Arctic Sea to the Indian Ocean, and from the Pacific coasts to the borders of Central Europe. The commission gave them the invitation to visit. A year’s journey cost them the king’s presence.
The Khan had never seen Western Europeans and was an extremely curious man. Grandson of the legendary Gengis Khan, Kublai was 43 years old when the Polo was taken to his presence. He was an intelligent and experienced despot, an excellent ruler and a good general, who also possessed a spirit of knowledge. He asked a thousand questions about European customs, especially about his religion and the pope of Rome, whom he had heard in praise.
For the latter he also gave them an amazing commission. Kublai, demonstrating that he was extremely open in religious matters, asked the pope to send him a hundred learned men in the Christian creed, so that they might have a dispute with the Bonzos, the Buddhist monks of his country, promising to convert him and his people to Christianity if they showed that his was a better religion. And as proof of his eclecticism, he also asked the merchants to bring him oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulcher.
The two merchants, converted into messengers by the grace and grace of the great Kublai, set out on their way ready to carry out the mission, and after a three-year voyage they arrived in Venice in 1269. Nicholas’s wife had died. Nicolás saw for the first time his son Marco, who was already fifteen years old and an intelligent boy, awake and of remarkable curiosity.
Travelers spent two years in Venice enjoying a monotonous change of life; While awaiting the election of a new pope (Clement IV had died that same year) to give him the letter, Nicholas remarried. The concern of the Polo for the unfulfilled mission increased and the election of the new Pope was delayed, reason why they decided to return to China.
Nicolás (leaving his present pregnant wife this time), Matthew and seventeen-year-old Marcus embarked in the direction of Acre. His first concern was to locate Theobald of Piacenza, a papal legate, whom Nicholas and Matthew already knew of their previous journey, and to ask for the necessary authorization to travel to Jerusalem. With the papers in order, the three Polo sailed for Joppe and then covered a journey of thirteen leagues to Jerusalem.
After the first of the orders of the Great Khan, they returned to Acre with the holy oil and prepared to seek justification not to comply with the second. Theobald provided them with letters proving the delay caused by the death of the pope and the delay in the election of his successor.
The Polo, now calm, resumed the trip, although they managed to advance very little. In Layas they found that a rebellion blocked the route of the caravans, and while they waited for patients who cleared the way they received an email from Acre. Tebaldo, by the name of Gregory X, was the new pope. The Poles returned to Acre in search of the hundred Christian doctors, although they were provided only two friars preachers.
At the beginning of 1271 they decided to leave again towards the court of the Great Khan. Nicholas’s son, Marco, begged his father to allow him to join the expedition. For two years he had listened to the travelers’ stories day after day, and he believed blindly in their stories. He had accompanied them on the visit to the pope, and although he was only seventeen, he was imbued with the spirit of the family. Nicholas could not refuse. He knew that Marco was capable of anything, that he had an insatiable curiosity, a privileged memory, and an ability to overcome contradictions, possibly greater than his own.
From Venice to China
Thanks to the emperor’s former safe-conduct, the three travelers were able to move smoothly. However, the two friars who accompanied them decided to go back to the first sign of danger. The Polo continued their journey, which lasted more than three years. Marco Polo, who made a thorough and comprehensive account of everything he saw, devoted only a short page to the precise route that followed from Venice to Xanadu, leaving the reconstruction of the exact itinerary to the readers. However, it seems that after crossing Little Armenia, from which he described the trade, hunting, and customs of his people, “although Christians are not good because they do not practice religion like the Romans,” they came to Anatolia, who Polo called Turcomania, land of weavers of “the most beautiful carpets in the world”, and from there to Greater Armenia.
The difficulty lay in finding a pretext to separate himself from Kublai without offending him and, above all, without jeopardizing the price of his fatigue. The Great Khan grew old and envy for the favors they had received from him grew around him. They knew China well enough to know that their master’s death would be theirs. But it was easier to get into Kublai’s court than to get out of it. Nicolás was in charge of asking for a first permit, “because in my land I have a wife and by law of Christians I cannot abandon her as long as I live.” The king found the pretext too futile and replied that although they could go anywhere in their dominions, “nothing of the world could leave them.” Other requests followed and the answer would always be negative, arguing that they were necessary.
Meanwhile, the astute merchants sold what they owned, invested the product in precious stones and made three garments lined with wadding, to which they sewed the jewels. Finally there was a favorable occasion. The Mongol governor of Persia, Argon, who was Kublai’s cousin, had been widowed. The last will of his wife was that the new consort was chosen by the emperor among the descendants of Genghis Khan. He received this order Kublai and appointed a beautiful princess of seventeen years, Cocachin, immediately giving the order to be carried to distant Persia.
The Polo was offered to fulfill this mission. Marco had just returned from India and had brought valuable reports. It was easy, he said, to reach the Persian Gulf coasting the continent to avoid the numerous dangers that marked the land routes. Reluctantly, the Khan accepted. He placed at the disposal of the Venetians thirteen ships, a crew and an escort; he gave them a great fortune in gold and entrusted them to the maid. Finally, in the middle of year 1292, the Pole left Beijing.
The Poles, guardians of Princess Cocachin, the future queen of Persia, embarked on one of the enormous ships chartered for the expedition, and began the long voyage from China to Persia first, and then Venice. Marco Polo continued with the inveterate custom of describing in a timely manner the countries through which they passed. The first to quote Sumatra, divided into several kingdoms, where they stopped for five months because of bad weather. There they learned to make palm wine and learned of the properties of coconuts as a drink and food.
From Sumatra they passed to the Andaman Islands and from there to Ceylon, on the Indian coast. In Malabar he visited the pearl fisheries and he did not forget to mention that “anyone who drinks wine cannot be a witness, not one who sails on the sea. For they say that a drinker of wine and one who sails on the sea are desperate people and do not accept them as witnesses, nor take their testimony into account. ” Conversulo, Marco Polo repeats some fantastic story, as when he states that “Indian children at birth are light-skinned, but their parents bathe them weekly with sesame oil and become as black as devils.”
Two and a half years lasted until they reached Ormuz, which they already knew. Argon had died and Princess Cocachin became a nuisance with which they did not know what to do. Finally they married the son of Argon and they were freed of its commission. They arrived at the port of Venice on a winter day in 1295.
It had been twenty-five years since they left Venice; Nicholas and Matthew were old, Marco Polo was forty-two years old and had spent most of his life in distant lands; Was a stranger of foreign accent who “had an indescribable Tartar air, just as Tartarus was his accent, having almost forgotten the Venetian tongue.”
When they knocked on the door of his house, in the channel of St. John Chrysostom, someone they did not know was to open. During their long absence, their relatives had believed them dead and their property had been sold. No one recognized those three strange pilgrims in ragged and dirty clothes. The words of their Venetian dialect were entangled in their language, so that they were supposed to be strangers. To prove their identity, the Polo gave a banquet to which they invited numerous personalities. During the evening they changed their dresses several times and, finally, they put on the rags that covered them when they returned, they uncovered the linings and showed their riches before the stupefied concurrence. Such an abundance of sapphires, diamonds, Rubies and pearls was a more tangible test for all those merchants than all the tales of the world. Travelers responded willingly to how many questions they were asked. Its history, however, seemed so fantastic to all, that from now on, to designate a charlatan, it used to be said in Venice: “This is a Pole!”
Though styled as fanciful, the Polo was extraordinarily rich. So much so that, when the war between Genoa and Venice arose, Marco armed a galley at his expense and commanded him as captain. But the Marco Polo warrior did not have as much fortune as the explorer and merchant. In 1298, at the battle of Curzola, he fell prisoner and was taken to Genoa, where he was forced to parade barefoot through the cobbled streets before being locked in a dungeon of the Capitan del Popolo palace.
The Book of Wonders
To this misfortune, nevertheless, Marco Polo must be part of his celebrity. Because it was during his captivity when he dictated the wonderful book of his travels. In fact, a man of letters, a prisoner like him, Rustichello of Pisa, was fascinated by his narratives and gave them form during the long hours that both spent together in the Genoese prison. Rustichello, the author of several French novels on King Arthur, readily accepted the possibility of collaborating in the description of the world. Marco Polo asked his father to send him the notes he had taken in the course of his travels and dictated to his companion everything he had lived up to that moment.
Thus arose, in French, in a French perhaps not very grammatically correct and in which the Italian terms abound, a work to which it is known with multiple titles: The description of the world , The book of Marco Polo , The book of the wonders , The Trips of Marco Polo, dubbed the Milione … The book ended in “the year of grace of 1298”, but the life of its hero continued.
The following year, Marco was released and returned to Venice with the manuscript, had he copied by some friends and had he edited. The narrative would obtain an extraordinary success, although it was considered like pure fantasy. Marco Polo was already forty-five years old and immersed in business. Little by little he was inheriting from all his relatives, and he was more and more greedy and friend of lawsuits. She contracted marriage and although the date of its liaison with Donata, daughter of Vitale Badoer, does not appear in any record (the first documented report that is known about her is a legal document dated March 17, 1312, by which her uncle liquidated the Dowry in favor of Marco), three daughters were born: Fantina, Bellela and Moreta.
The years to come were monotonous and uniform for those who had known the brawls of a lavish court. Dedicated in body and soul to commerce, he sold glass lamps, brought Florentine fabrics to Venice, or imported large-scale indigo sheets. They say that he always cited astronomical figures, and it is assumed that the nickname of Milione came from there : “Because of continually repeating the story that often told of the splendor of the Great Khan, of its riches, which were from ten to fifteen millions in Gold, and the way of speaking always of the many other riches of those countries in terms of millions , gave him the nickname of Messer Polo Milione ». There have been, however, other explanations about the nickname.
He lived his last years in peace and commerce until his death, on the evening of January 8, 1324, a death that, like him, went unnoticed to his compatriots. He was seventy years old. He was buried, according to his wishes, with his father, on the porch of the church of San Lorenzo, tombs that, like almost everything that is part of the life or death of Marco Polo, have disappeared.
Little is known of his character or his appearance, and the “portrait of Marco Polo” that appears in some book is due only to the illusion of its author. He was supposed to be strong and robust, for he endured long and tiring journeys, and by the account of his life no one doubts that he was an unquestionable observer, always attentive. They also describe him as intelligent, persevering, patient and energetic. Impulsive and somewhat stubborn in his youth, he was tempered by his travels with his relatives much older than himself, and he became, at the end of his life, a lover of money and lawsuits, since he did not notice family ties when He was owed something, however small, which shows that he was implacable and rigid in his business relations. He was a typical European of his time, to whom no prodigy seemed impossible, but was, yes,
Extensive accounts of festivals, wine and food seem to indicate that he enjoyed the pleasures of life. Some scattered notes from the book of wonders suggest that he “was well-formed and sympathetic in form and face, without becoming a handsome boy,” and through some phrase it can be deduced that “women of different races found him attractive”; Very difficult to separate reality from the fable in the life of a Venetian who was famous as a storyteller.
His contemporaries did not take him seriously at all, and even his friends, worried about his bad reputation for “telling such exaggerated stories,” advised him to “correct the work and remove what he had to write out of the truth.” They say that Marco Polo replied: ”
His contemporaries did not take him seriously at all, and even his friends, worried about his bad reputation for “telling such exaggerated stories,” advised him to “correct the work and remove what he had to write out of the truth.” They say that Marco Polo replied: “I have not written half of the things I was allowed to see.” Half a century later, other travelers confirmed, point by point, what Marco reported. It took much longer for the halo of fables surrounding his book to dissipate. And a hundred and fifty years later, his information that a great ocean bathing Asia from the East suggested to a sailor the idea that by sailing west across the Atlantic, it was possible to reach China. It was Christopher Columbus , and today we know that.