Book Report on Marco Polo

This essay has a total of 1820 words and 8 pages.

Marco Polo


Marco Polo is one of the most well-known heroic travelers and traders around the world. In
my paper I will discuss with you Marco Polo's life, his travels, and his visit to China to
see the great Khan.


Marco Polo was born in c.1254 in Venice. He was a Venetian explorer and merchant whose
account of his travels in Asia was the primary source for the European image of the Far
East until the late 19th century. Marco's father, Niccolò, and his uncle Maffeo had
traveled to China (1260-69) as merchants. When they left (1271) Venice to return to China,
they were accompanied by 17-year-old Marco and two priests.


Early Life
Despite his enduring fame, very little was known about the personal life of Marco Polo. It
is known that he was born into a leading Venetian family of merchants. He also lived
during a propitious time in world history, when the height of Venice's influence as a
city-state coincided with the greatest extent of Mongol conquest of Asia(Li Man Kin 9).
Ruled by Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire stretched all the way from China to Russia and the
Levant. The Mongol hordes also threatened other parts of Europe, particularly Poland and
Hungary, inspiring fear everywhere by their bloodthirsty advances. Yet the ruthless
methods brought a measure of stability to the lands they controlled, opening up trade
routes such as the famous Silk Road. Eventually ,the Mongols discovered that it was more
profitable to collect tribute from people than to kill them outright, and this policy too
stimulated trade(Hull 23).


Into this favorable atmosphere a number of European traders ventured, including the family
of Marco Polo. The Polos had long-established ties in the Levant and around the Black Sea:
for example, they owned property in Constantinople, and Marco's uncle, for whom he was
named, had a home in Sudak in the Crimea(Rugoff 8). From Sudak, around 1260, another
uncle, Maffeo, and Marco's father, Niccolò, made a trading visit into Mongol territory,
the land of the Golden Horde(Russia), ruled by Berke Khan. While they were there, a war
broke out between Berke and the Cowan of Levant , blocking their return home. Thus Niccolò
and Maffeo traveled deeper into mongol territory, moving southeast to Bukhara, which was
ruled by a third Cowan. While waiting there, they met an emissary traveling farther
eastward who invited them to accompany him to the court of the great Cowan, Kublai, in
Cathay(modern China). In Cathay, Kublai Khan gave the Polos a friendly reception,
appointed them his emissaries to the pope, and ensured their safe travel back to
Europe(Steffof 10). They were to return to Cathay with one hundred learned men who could
instruct the Mongols in the Christian religion and the liberal arts.


In 1269, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo arrived back in Venice, where Niccolò found out his wife
had died while he was gone(Rugoff 5). Their son, Marco, who was only about fifteen years
old, had been only six or younger when his father left home:thus; Marco was reared
primarily by his mother and the extended Polo family-and the streets of Venice. After his
mother's death, Marco had probably begun to think of himself as something of a
orphan(Rugoff 6). Then his father and uncle suddenly reappeared, as if from the dead,
after nine years of traveling in far-off, romantic lands. These experiences were the
formative influences on young Marco, and one can see their effects mirrored in his
character: a combination of sensitivity and toughness, independence and loyalty, motivated
by an eagerness for adventure, a love of stories, and a desire to please or impress(Li Man
Kin 10).


Life's Work
In 1268, Pope Clement IV died, and a two- or three-year delay while another pope was being
elected gave young Marco time to mature and to absorb the tales of his father and uncle.
Marco was seventeen years old when he, his father and uncle finally set out for the court
of Kublai Khan(Stefoff 13). They were accompanied not by one hundred wise men but by two
Dominican friars, and the two good friars turned back at the first sign of adversity,
another local war in the Levant. Aside from the pope's messages, the only spiritual gift
Europe was able to furnish the great Kublai Khan was oil from the lamp burning at Jesus
Christ's supposed tomb in Jerusalem. Yet, in a sense, young Marco, the only new person in
the Polos' party, was himself a fitting representative of the spirit of European
civilization on the eve of the Renaissance, and the lack of one hundred learned Europeans
guaranteed that he would catch the eye of the Cowan, who was curious about "Latins"(Hull
29).


On the way to the khan's court, Marco had the opportunity to complete his education. The
journey took three and a half years by horseback through some of the world's most rugged
terrain, including snowy mountain ranges, such as the Pamirs, and parching deserts, such
as the Gobi. Marco and his party encountered such hazards as wild beasts and brigands;
they also met with beautiful women, in whom young Marco took a special interest. The group
traveled numerous countries and cultures, noting food, dress, and religion unique to
each(Li Man Kin 17). In particular, under the khans's protection the Polos were able to
observe a large portion of the Islamic world at close range, as few if any European
Christians had. By the time they reached the khan's court in Khanbalik, Marco had become a
hardened traveler. He had also received a unique education and had been initiated into
manhood.


Kublai Khan greeted the Polos warmly and invited them to stay on in his court. Here, if
Marco's account is to be believed, the Polos became great favorites of the khan, and
Kublai eventually made Marco one of his most trusted emissaries(Great Lives from History
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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