Admin moved page Are the travels of Marco Polo fact or fiction? to Are the travels of Marco Polo fact or fiction
[[File: Marco One.jpg|270px|thumb|left| A portrait of Marco Polo]]__NOTOC__
Marco Polo (1254-1324) was one of the greatest’ explorers of the Middle Ages and the first person to make Europe aware China's extraordinary power and culture. He allegedly travelled from Europe and throughout Asia from 1271 to 1295. His adventures were recounted 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 explorers, 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 have regarded his account as a delightful work of fiction and believe that was a liar. Were Marco Polo’s travels were based on actual events and are the Italian’s account plausible? How reliable is Polo's account as a historical document?
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 Polos 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. During his travels, Polo spent over 17 years in China. 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) and was 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.
====The travels in China and elsewhere====
[[File: Marco Polo Two.jpg|
200px|thumb|left| A medieval miniature of Marco in China]]
Based on the book, it is possible to reconstruct the travels of Marco. It has been estimated that he traveled over 15,000 miles on horseback, ship and foot. The books opens with an account of his uncle and father traveling the Silk Road and meeting the great Emperor, Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China in his capital Dadu (present-day Beijing). He was the grandson of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan and he ruled Northern China and later conquered south China and beyond, forging one of the greatest Empires in the Medieval World.
Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty, that ruled all much of East Asia, for almost a century (1271-1368). He requested that the Polos secure him some holy oil and to bring a message of goodwill from him to the Pope. The two Venetians eventually made their way to Venice, and here Marco met his father for the first time in years. He accompanied the two older men back to Asia and traversed the Silk Road and he vividly describes the dangers on this route, including bandits, deserts and dust storms.
Upon his arrival in China, he met Kublai Khan and became a valued member of his court, partly because of his skill with languages.<ref> Tulk, John. Marco Polo and the encounter of East and West. (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008), p 119</ref> Polo even carried out administrative duties for the Khan and as a result, he visited many areas of China. He traveled throughout the domains of the Mongols in East Asia. He also visited Tibet, Burma and even sailed on the South China Sea. Marco met many members of the Mongol and Chinese elite and visited many cities.
The Khan was reluctant to let the Venetians to return home, for reasons unknown. The Europeans knew that they needed the protection of the Khan and that if he suddenly died or was deposed they could be killed. Sometime in 1293, the Mongol ruler of the Ilkhanate Empire in Persia contracted a marriage alliance with Kublai Khan.
The Emperor of China agreed and sent one of his daughters or a niece to Persia, to become the wife of the Mongol ruler.<ref>Tulk, p 113</ref> The Polos used this occasion to secure permission to leave the court of the Great Khan, and they traveled to with the bride and her retinue. They took the sea route, and Marco observed many islands and harbors, in modern Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Persian Gulf. The Polos barely survived the perilous journey, and after arriving in Persia, they made their way to the Byzantine Empire and found a passage to Venice.
====Omissions and exaggerations====
[[File: Marco Polo three.jpg|200px|thumb|left|A portrait of Kublai Khan]]
The Travels of Marco Polo has always divided audiences. Many have treated the book as a work of fiction. There are those who believe that it does give a flawed account of East Asia. Those who are skeptical of the narrative point to the many omissions <ref> Wood, Frances. "Did Marco Polo Go to China?." Asian Affairs 27, no. 3 (1996): 296-304 </ref>
. This has led some to suggest that he only visited the Chinese capital, or only repeated stories he heard from others.
There is, in fact, no mention of the Great Wall of China, which traverses a large part of the north of that vast country. Then while he makes references to many place names, modern scholars have not been able to identify them. Then he failed to mention many customs of the Chinese and Mongols, that would have seemed novel and noteworthy to a European traveler, such as footbinding.<ref> Wood, p 298</ref>
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====Rustichello and the travels of Marco Polo====
Many believed that Rustichello embellished the travelogue of the Venetian and his adventures. He was a writer who specialized in Romances and fabulous tales and was best known for his popular stories on King Arthur and Camelot. The Travels of Marco Polo has many of the stylistic characteristics of the Pisan writer’s earlier works. There are some references to marvels and fabulous stories in the narrative of the Italian. There are notorious descriptions in the book of men with the heads of dogs.
Zhou, Gang. "Small Talk: A New Reading of Marco Polo's Il milione." MLN 124, no. 1 (2009): 1-22.