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Marco Polo was one of the greatest’ explorers of the Middle Ages and he was the first person to make Europe aware of the great power and culture of China. He recounted his travels, throughout Asia, in a book that made him famous. The influence of the story of Marco Polo and his travels on Europeans cannot be overstated. His adventures inspired many later explores, such as Christopher Columbus and his accounts did much to encourage the development of cartography. However, not everyone believed Polo’s accounts of his travel in Asia and China. Many regarded his account as a delightful work of fiction, and some
believed him to be a liar. This article discusses if Marco Polo’s travels were based on actual events and are the Italian’s account plausible. It will also examine’ issues such as omissions, exaggerations and how reliable is the great traveler’s account as a historical document. [[File: Marco One.jpg|200px|thumb|left| A portrait of Marco Polo]]
==Life of Marco Polo==
Marco was born in 1254 in the Republic of Venice which was a great mercantile power in medieval Europe and had extensive trading contacts with the Muslim world. He was born into a successful family of merchants. We know little about his early life, but he appears to have been apprenticed to a merchant and received little formal education. At the age of seventeen, he accompanied his uncle and father on a trading expedition to Asia. They had already traded and traveled in Asia for many years. The Polo’s left Venice and did not return home for 24 years. They had traveled the Silk Road and made their way to China and they appear to have been very successful. Marco apparently even served in the administration of the Emperor and had visited the Imperial court, many times <ref> Burgan, Michael. Marco Polo: Marco Polo and the silk road to China (London, Capstone, 2002), p. 13</ref>. The Polos returned to Venice in 1295 with a great many gemstones and jewels. Marco was a wealthy man and married the daughter of a leading merchant. Venice was frequently at war with its great rival, the Italian city-state of Genoa. Marco was so wealthy that he fitted out a warship which he personally commanded. He was captured at the great Venetian defeat by Genoa at the battle of Curzola (1298), imprisoned by the Genoese and held for ransom. In prison, the merchant was held captive with Rustichello da Pisa, who was a well-known popular writer. Marco recounted his many adventures in Asia to the Pisan writer. Rustichello later used Marco’s stories and he incorporated them into a book. <ref>Burgan, p 117</ref>. The book The Travels of Marco Polo was a best-seller and was read throughout Europe. Marco was later released and returned to his native Venice. Polo continued to trade but he never again left his home city and he died in 1324. There has been controversy over the veracity of his claims, since his death.