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 Polo’s 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. Marco\'s father, Niccolò, 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 Venice’s 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 Marco’s uncle,
for whom he was named, had a home in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8). From Sudak,
around 1260, another uncle, Maffeo, and Marco’s father, Niccolò, 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 Niccolò 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, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo arrived back in Venice, where Niccolò 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 mother’s 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).

Life’s 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 pope’s messages, the only
spiritual gift Europe was able to furnish the great Kublai Khan