Marco Polo, was born around 1254 into a wealthy Venetian merchant family. His father, Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo were successful jewel merchants. Marco’s mother died when he was young he was primarily raised by extended family. They expanded long-distance trade and people began to expect accessibility to the foreign goods they brought. Merchants, like the Polo family, became increasingly wealthier. The Polo brothers went as far as China during their travels. They met the Mongol leader, Kublai Khan, grandson of the great conqueror Genghis Khan, he expressed interest in Christianity and requested that the Polo brothers return to Rome to speak to the pope on his behalf. Khan wanted the pope to send the Polo brothers back to Beijing with holy water and 100 learned priests. When Marco was 15, his father and uncle returned home. Though the pope did not grant their request, the Polo brothers decided to return to Asia. This time, they took 17-year-old Marco with them. 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. The Polos had originally planned to be gone for only a few years. Khan’s acceptance of the Polos offered the foreigners unparalleled access to his empire. Kublai Khan eventually employed Marco as a special envoy he sent to far-flung areas of Asia never before explored by Europeans, including Burma, India and Tibet. The Polos stayed in China for 17 years, amassing vast riches of jewels, gold and decided to return to Venice.
Three years after returning to Venice, Marco Polo assumed command of a Venetian ship in a war against Genoa. He was captured and, while being held in a Genovese prison, he worte his book “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Polo’s book was a hit and made him a household name
In the centuries since his death, Marco Polo has received the recognition that failed to come his way during his lifetime. Marco’s story has inspired countless other adventurers to set off and see the world. The information in his book proved vital to European geographic understanding and inspired countless explorers including Christopher Columbus who in 1492 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.