Marco Polo portrait

Marco Polo

In the 13th century, a great Mongolian state with a capital in Karakorum was established in the vast central space of Asia between India, China and the East European Lowland. In Europe, news spread that the ruler of this state wants to accept the Christian faith. Wanting to convert him and win against the Turks, popes and kings sent messages to him that came back bringing many interesting news about distant lands. They also sought the legendary Christian state of Father John, which was supposed to be somewhere in Central Asia, remaining in the fight against infidels.

Many travelers with diplomatic and cognitive missions set off towards the east. At that time, however, the greatest commercial travels were Venetian travelers of Claus, Matthew and especially Marco Polo. These were the times of a great revival of trade and the flowering of a number of European cities, especially the Italian cities of Genoa and Venice, which were small, independent states. Venice, having mastered many villages on the Mediterranean during the Crusades, became a colonial state mediating overseas trade between European countries and the Far East. It has mastered a number of markets in Egypt, India and other countries.

In 1261, two brothers Claus and Matthew Polo, who came from an old patrician family, set out on a distant merchant journey. They reached the Tatar khanate on the Volga and were hospitably received there. From there, after a long and troublesome trip, they came to Beijing, the residence of the great Khan Kublai. Khan accepted them and handed them a letter to the pope with a request to establish friendly relations. After a long eight-year absence, they returned to Venice. The news of their return and adventures touched the whole city, and stories about the riches of the Far East have awakened the hopes of the Venetian merchants to trade with distant China.
Marco Polo trip

In 1271, both brothers, provided with the reply of Pope Gregory IX, embarked on a new journey. They were now accompanied by 17-year-old Marco, son of Claus. After three and a half years of travel through Armenia, Persia, Ormuz, the Hindu Kush mountains, the high plateau of Pamir, the Kum-Dag desert came to Beijing again. On the way, they saw the Lob river, Hoang-Ho, visited the city of Sziang-tu and the residence of Khan famous for its incredible wealth. Chan greeted them with great honors, and Marco gave him exceptional trust, even entrusting him with governance in Yangtze, a province north of Narikin. The young man with full power of attorney held numerous inspection trips across the extensive state, which allowed him to look closely at the population, to know the nature and geographical features of China.

In China, the Polo brothers stayed for 17 years, and then they were endowed with great riches and returned with letters recommending by sea to their homeland. The Chinese princess was traveling with them and they were transported to the reigning Argayan, Persian Khan Kublai, in Persia. They sailed around the Malay Peninsula, stopped in Java, Sumatra and Ceylon, visited India, and finally, after a 24-year journey, they returned to Persia through Persia.

After returning to his homeland, Marco Polo took part in the war between Venice and Genoa (1298), he was seriously wounded and he was imprisoned. A prison companion Marco, Rustichello of Pisa, wrote down his stories in The Book of Marvels of the World. In this way, a work was written vividly and colorfully in the Old French dialect, later translated into Italian and Latin. It has created a great impression everywhere on the houses of the Mediterranean countries. For a long time, the truth of the descriptions was not believed, considering it a fantasy of lush fantasy. It was only after a thorough knowledge of China in the nineteenth century that the truth of these statements was convinced.

In the work of his “II Millione”, Marco Polo presents a lot of interesting information about the splendor and wealth of the imperial court, beautiful gardens and gilded palaces, the rich cities of eastern Asia and the lively commercial traffic that prevailed there. He lists the great wealth of pearls, gold and other precious metals he has seen along the way. He also mentions the island of Cipangu (Japan), which the Chinese emperor tried to conquer. It also presents interesting descriptions of Mongol tribes that lead a nomadic lifestyle. His stay in India gives details about the life of brāhmaówas and fakirs, describes the climate and Indian nature: tigers, snakes, parrots, catches of pepper, pepper cultivation, etc. We also find descriptions of Madagascar, Zanzibar, the island of Socotra and Abyssinia, but probably news about these countries he took Polo from others. Marco Polo’s stories were an incentive for many to travel and therefore played an outstanding role in the history of discoveries.

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