Marco Polo was born in 1254 in Venice. However, the exact place and date of his birth are unknown and has become a topic of debate amongst scholars. Also very little is known about Marco’s childhood, but it is likely that he spent much of his early years in Venice. Marco Polo’s mother died when he was very young and as a result he was cared for by his aunt and uncle.
Marco Polo’s father, Niccolo and uncle, Maffeo, worked together as merchants and traded with many countries, in particular those in the Near East. The two men travelled widely and became very wealthy and achieved great prestige. Neither of them were around in Marco Polo’s childhood, however when they returned to Venice in 1269, they taught him about the mercantile trade. Niccolo and Maffeo told Marco all about ships, voyages and exploration opportunities.
In 1269, when Marco was just 15, the three men embarked on an epic and pioneering trip to Asia. They explored many Asian countries and were amazed by the wealth and size of the countries. The trip lasted for over 24 years and covered over 15,000 miles. On the journey the men accumulated a great deal of knowledge and experience. Marco learnt at least four different languages on the expedition which came in very useful when the men were trading in international markets. When the three men returned from their Asian adventures in 1295 they were very wealthy indeed, but they found that Venice was at war with Genoa and they were unable to return to their previous lives. Marco Polo was arrested and imprisoned by the Geneon’s, possibly as a result of being in a fight.
In prison Marco Polo passed the time by telling his cellmate all about his Asian travels. The cellmate wrote down the tails, and also incorporated tales of his own. The book, known as ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ was one of the first accounts of Asia, and told readers of the great size and wealth of China and other Asian countries. It spread throughout Europe in manuscript form. Although there is debate about how much of the book was fiction and how much actually happened, but no matter because the book that detailed Marco Polo’s travels inspired many other travellers, including Christopher Columbus leading to numerous great findings. Marco Polo also influenced cartography in Europe, helping to fill in gaps in existing maps.
When Marco Polo was released from prison in 1299, he returned home to Venice where he found that his uncle and father had purchased a company known as a palazzo zone. The company financed many expeditions and as a result Marco Polo and his family became very successful and very wealthy. Marco Polo married Dibata Badoer in 1300, and they had three daughters. Marco Polo died in 1324, and was buried in Venice. He divided his assets up between the church, individuals and the range of guilds to which he belonged. He also wrote off a number of debts that people owed him.