Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marco Polo

Most people know Marco Polo journeyed to China and back to Europe.But little known is that his book,The Travels of Marco Polo,was written by a fellow prisoner dictated to him by Polo while both were in a Genoese jail.In 1298,Venice,of which Polo was a citizen,and Genoa had a naval battle,in which Venice was defeated.Polo was among the prisoners.To escape the tedium of jail,Polo told his story to Rusticiano,who recorded the fantastic tale.In 1260,young Marco was living with his two uncles in Constantinople,where the uncles were among many Venetian merchants.These 2 uncles went to the Crimea on a trade trip,then to Kazan,then to Bokhara,where they fell in with a party of envoys from Kublai Khan in China to his brother Hulagu in persia.These envoys pressed them to return with them to China,for the Great Khan had never seen men of the "Latin" peoples.They agreed,and met the Great Khan,who they interested greatly in the civilization of Christendom.The Khan requested they go back to Europe and return with "intelligent men acquainted with the Seven Arts."The two uncles,Nicolo and Maffeo,returned to Constantinople,and with Marco and 2 Dominican priests returned to China.The 2 priests lost heart and returned less than halfway into the journey.The Polos stayed 16 years in China and got homesick.Seeking a reason to leave,for the Great Khan grew extremely fond of the 3 Italians,they saw an opportunity when Argon,King of Persia,and grandson of Hulagu,the Great Khan's brother,lost his Mongol wife,and on her death-bed Argon promised her he would only remarry a Mongol woman from her own tribe.Argon sent ambassadors to Peking,and the Great Khan selected a young maiden from that tribe.She needed an escort to Persia,and the Polos knew the way.After 2 years,the Polos safely delivered the Mongol princess to Argon's son,for Argon had died,and she married Argon's son.So the 3 Polos got back to Venice,where they were refused entrance to their own house.It took some doing to establish their identity,so they held a feast,at which they brought out their old padded suits in which they traveled home and ripped them open,from which poured out rubies,sapphires,carbuncles,emeralds,and diamonds.Even after this,Marco's accounts of the huge size and riches of China earned him the nickname "Il Milione"because he was always speaking of millions of people and millions of ducats.

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