The traveler and writer Marco Polo left Venice for Cathay (now China) in 1271, spent seventeen years in Kublai Khan’s (1215–1294) empire, and returned to Venice in 1295. His account of his experiences is one of the most important travel documents ever written. Marco Polo was born around 1254 into a prosperous merchant family in the Italian city-state of Venice. His father, Niccolò, and his uncle Maffeo had left the year before on a long-term trading expedition. As a result, he was raised by extended relatives following his mother’s death at a young age. Niccolò and Maffeo first spent about six years in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), which had been under Latin control since the Fourth Crusade of 1204.
The two brothers then went to the port city of Soldaia (now Sudak, Ukraine), where they owned a house. Around 1292, the Polos offered to accompany a Mongol princess who was to become the consort of Arghun Khan in Persia. The party sailed from a southern Chinese port via Sumatra, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), southern India, and the Persian Gulf. After leaving the princess in Iran, the Polos travelled overland to Constantinople and then to Venice, arriving home in 1295.The Polos eventually departed for Europe and reached Venice in 1295. Marco became involved in a naval conflict between Venice and Genoa and in 1298 was captured by the Genoese. In prison, his stories attracted the attention of a writer from Pisa, Rustichello, who began to write them down, frequently embellishing them as he went. The resulting book was extremely popular and was translated into many languages under a number of titles, including ‘The Million’ and the ‘Travels of Marco Polo’.After Polo was released he returned to Venice, where he remained for the rest of his life. He died on 8 January 1324.
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