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The Co-Incidence that Changed History
Marco Polo was the Venetian son of Niccolo. Marco’s father and uncle Maffeo were traders.
In their quest to find new trade, the two brothers dared to venture into Asia, at that time controlled by the Mongols. Some what to their surprise, they found that the Mongols were interested in trading with Europe.
They were permitted to accompany a messenger who was going across country to see the Great Kublai Khan, conqueror of China.
They were lavishly entertained by the Great Khan.
On return to Italy, at the Khan’s request, they visited the Pope and asked that 100 Christian Missionaries be sent to China.
In 1271 the two brothers, once again set off across land to China escorting the missionaries, not all who made it. With them they also took the 17 year old Marco. Little did they know it would be 24 years before they would again see Italy.
Once again they were well received by the Great Khan who particularly liked the young Marco.
The Khan asked the Polos to accompany the Mongolian Princess Kokachin on her trip to marry Arghun, the Khan of Persia. They were to travel by sea this time.
Setting off on this journey with 14 ships, they did not know what adventures they would meet before they saw Italy.
Their trip was long, first with a prolonged stay in Sumatra, a long sea journey and more delay in Ceylon. This was followed by a hazardous journey up the west coast of India. The voyage was slow and plagued by pirates who depleted the size of their fleet.
On their final arrival at Hormuz on the Persian Gulf they had less than one third of the men they had started out with. Arghun, the Khan had died. The Polos left the Princess with Arghun’s son and continued their journey back to Italy, first across land to the Black Sea and then by ship to Venice.
The Travels of Marco Polo
I think everybody today has heard of Marco Polo’s travels. Shortly after Marco’s return, with the collapse of the Mongol Empire in the West, giving way to the anti-Christen Turks, the land route to China was blocked. His stories of the Far East however lived on. It was mainly because of Marco’s stories that inspired Columbus to search for the sea route to China by heading west, thereby discovering the Americas.
It was however co-incidence that caused both Columbus and us to have heard of Marco Polo.
We all heard of him through the book “Travels of Marco Polo” and it was the writing of this book that was co-incidental.
During the war between the republics of Genoa and Venice, Marco was imprisoned in Genoa. One of Marco’s fellow prisoners was a writer and popular romance story teller by the name of Rustichello of Pisa. It was the telling of Marco’s adventures to this writer that resulted in the book that rapidly became famous throughout Europe and history.