“Loaded Them with Presents,” The Story of the Sea, 1895, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, GC21.Q11.

Marco Polo

1254 CE - 1324 CE

Primary Goal:

To establish a trade relationship with Asia.

Achievement:

Explored and documented areas of Asia not explored before by Europeans.


Marco Polo was a Venetian, but where he was actually born is not known with complete certainty. He was born in either the city of Venice or the city of Korcula, Croatia. In Polo’s day, the city was called Curzola, Venetian Dalmatia. Regardless of where he was born though, Marco was raised in Venice, and was Venetian by culture. Marco came from a family of explorers and traders, but it was his name that has become so famous because he took the time to write about all of his adventures.

His father, Nicolo, and his uncle, Maffio, moved around Eastern Europe searching for a place to safely do business trading Eastern goods to the West. Eventually, in 1264, Nicolo and Maffio were sent by Ilkhan Hulagu of Bukhara (one of the minor Khans of the Mongolian Empire) on a mission to visit his brother Kublai, the Great Khan. After traveling for two years, they finally reached Khanbaliq (modern-day Beijing). The Polos were sent back from the Khan with a Mongolian ambassador, Koeketei. The Khan wanted them to carry a message to the Pope, asking for a team of Westerners to come and teach Western culture and Christianity to those under his rule. They were unable to immediately fulfill this request because there was a three-year gap, from 1268 to 1271, during which there was no Pope to whom to carry this message. After Pope Gregory X was selected in 1271, the Polos left on their second journey.