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Venetian merchant and adventurer Marco Polo traveled from Europe to Asia from 1271 to 1295. He wrote Il Milione, known in English as The Travels of Marco Polo.
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Marco Polo was an adventurer and merchant from Italy who eventually left Italy and served under the Chinese ruler Kubla Khan for 20 years. When he returned to his homeland, Marco Polo brought the first taste of Asian culture to Europe.
The full biography of explorer Marco Polo.
Legendary explorer Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in a sea town in Italy and began sailing as a teenager. Columbus believed that sailing west would be a faster way to get to India. In August of 1492, Columbus set sail.
Believing that he knows a better way to get to China, Columbus finally convinced the Spanish Queen to fund his expedition. However, she only gave him three small ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
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Marco Polo was born in 1254, in Venice, Italy. He traveled extensively with his family, journeying from Europe to Asia from 1271 to 1295. He remained in China for 17 of those years. Around 1292, he left China, acting as consort along the way to a Mongol princess who was being sent to Persia. His book Il Milione describes his travels and experiences and influenced later adventurers and merchants.
"I have not told half of what I saw."
Marco Polo was born in the year 1254 to a wealthy Venetian merchant family. Much of his childhood was spent parentless, and he was raised by an extended family. Polo's mother died when he was young, and his father and uncle, successful jewel merchants Niccolo and Maffeo Polo, were in Asia for much of Polo's youth.
Their journeys brought them into present-day China, where they joined a diplomatic mission to the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol leader whose grandfather, Genghis Khan, had conquered Northeast Asia. In 1269, the two men returned to Venice, and immediately started making plans for their return to Khan's court. During their stay with the leader, Khan had expressed his interest in Christianity and asked the Polo brothers to visit again with 100 priests and a collection of holy water.
Khan's Empire, the largest the world had ever seen, was largely a mystery to those living within the borders of the Holy Roman Empire. A sophisticated culture outside the reaches of the Vatican seemed unfathomable, and yet, that's exactly what the Polo brothers described to confounded Venetians when they arrived home.
In 1271, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo set out for Asia again, but this time they brought young Marco with them. Unable to recruit the 100 priests that Khan had requested, they left with only two, who, after getting a taste of the hard journey ahead of them, soon turned back for home. The Polos' journey took place on land, and they were forced to cut through challenging and sometimes harsh territory. But through it all, Marco reveled in the adventure. His later memory for the places and cultures he witnessed was remarkable and exceptionally accurate.
As they made their way through the Middle East, Marco absorbed its sights and smells. His account of the Orient, especially, provided the western world with its first clear picture of the East's geography and ethnic customs. Hardships, of course, came his way. In what is now Afghanistan, Marco was forced to retreat to the mountains in order to recoup from an illness he'd contracted. Crossing the Gobi desert, meanwhile, proved long and, at times, arduous. "This desert is reported to be so long that it would take a year to go from end to end," Marco later wrote. "And at the narrowest point it takes a month to cross it. It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat."
Finally, after four years of travel, the Polos reached China and Kublai Khan, who was staying at his summer palace known as Xanadu, a grand marble architectural wonder that dazzled young Marco.
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