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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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Just a few years after his return to Venice, Marco commanded a ship in a war against the rival city of Genoa. He was eventually captured and sentenced to a Genoese prison, where he met a fellow prisoner and writer named Rustichello. As the two men became friends, Marco told Rustichello about his time in Asia, what he'd seen, where he'd traveled and what he'd accomplished. His stories were soon committed to paper and eventually published as a book called The Description of the World,
later known as The Travels of Marco Polo.
The book made Marco, who was released from prison in 1299, a celebrity. It was printed in French, Italian and Latin, becoming the most popular read in Europe. But few readers allowed themselves to believe Marco's tale. They took it to be fiction, the construct of a man with a wild imagination. The work eventually earned another title: Il Milione ("The Million Lies"). Marco, however, stood behind his book. He also moved on with his life. After his release from prison, he returned to Venice, where he married, raised three daughters and, for some 25 years, carried on the family business.
Marco died at his home in Venice on January 8, 1324. As he lay dying, friends and fans of his book paid him visits, urging him to admit that his book was fiction. Marco wouldn't relent. "I have not told half of what I saw," he said.
In the centuries since his death, Marco Polo has received the recognition that failed to come his way during his lifetime. So much of what he claimed to have seen has been verified by researchers, academics and other explorers. Even if his accounts came from other travelers he met along the way, Marco's story has inspired countless other adventurers to set off and see the world. Two centuries after Marco's passing, Christopher Columbus set off across the Atlantic in hopes of finding a new route to the Orient. With him was a copy of Marco Polo's book.
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