Image. A page of The Travels of Marco Polo - Marco Polo, Il Milione, Chapter CXXIII and CXXIV, page from the Book "The Travels of Marco Polo" ("Il milione"), originally published during Polos lifetime 1298-1299, but frequently reprinted and translated . Livre des merveilles fol. 58r. The Khan at war, Faksimile UB Graz Sig.: HB 15 210/P 778. The army of the Khan attacking the rebellious King of Mien (now Burma). Note that Polo describes the King attacking the Khan with elephants, whereas the illustrator depicts the Khan attacking the King with elephants (Source: Wikipedia.org).
The Travels of Marco Polo is the usual English title of Marco Polo's travel book, nicknamed Il Milione - The Million, or Le Livre des Merveilles - The Book of Wonders. Marco Polo`s travelling was really a wonder! Marco Polo (1254-1324) ventured into a unknown world. He is probably also the most famous Westerner travelled on the Silk Road.
The Venetian Explorer, Marco Polo`s journeys and stories inspired people to discover more of the world. The mentioned book covers his travels and stays in the Orient, including Asia, Persia, China and Indonesia, between 1271 and 1298. It`s also known as Oriente Poliano or Description of the World.
Marco Polo`s book was very famous and popular in the 13th century. The text claims that Marco Polo became an important figure at the court of the Mongol leader Kublai Khan.
True or false?
The Venetian explorer Marco Polo brought also back with him a chronicle to the West that changed history forever. Until this day scholars debate how much of the account is accurate and whether or not Marco Polo ever actually travelled to the court or was just repeating stories that he had heard from other travellers.
The book was actually written in French by a romance author of the time, Rustichello da Pisa, who was reportedly working from accounts which he had heard from Marco Polo when they were in prison in Genoa having been captured while on a ship.
Milione comes from either The Million, which was a name used to mock the book, which many claimed was filled with "a million lies", or from Polo's family nickname Emilione.
The "million lies" are derived mostly from the fact that many of the things described in his book are described in the hundred, thousands, or millions, and those reading his work were dubious of the large numbers, which gave to Marco Polo a reputation of exaggerating things. Many travelers have tried to trace Polo`s route but none have succeeded.
One of the them who challenge Marco Polo`s accounts most is Dr Frances Wood. In 1995 she published a book titled Did Marco Polo Go To China?, which became Marco Polo Did Not Go To China in the German version. Dr Frances Wood claims that Marco did not go to China and that he 'probably never travelled much further than the family's trading post on the Black Sea and in Constantinople. As she writes in her book didn't Polo mentioned the Great Wall, cormorant fishing, binding women's feet, tea, chopsticks, Chinese writing, paper, tea, Chinese historical records, Chinese language.
Reasonable explanations for some of these confrontations are: for the first The Great Wall was in the early beginning. For the second he spent most time with the Mongoles. He was little in touch with the Chines culture. Anyway Polo mentioned paper money which was unknown for people living in the West and other things that might prove his amazing journeys.
What`s cover the book?
The Travels is divided into four books. Book One describes the lands of the Middle East and Central Asia that Marco encountered on his way to China.
Book Two describes China and the court of Kublai Khan.
Book Three describes some of the coastal regions of the East: Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and the east coast of Africa.
Finally, Book Four describes some of the recent wars among the Mongols and some of the regions of the far north, like Russia.
The oldest surviving Polo manuscript is in Old French heavily flavoured with Italian; for Benedetto, this "F' text is the basic original text, which he corrected by comparing it with the somewhat more detailed Latin of Ramusio, together with a Latin manuscript in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (source: www.Wikipedia.org).
People have through centuries found inspiration and useful information from Polo`s accounts. One of them is Christopher Colombus.
Image. Handwritten notes by Christopher Colombus on the latin edition of Marco Polo's Le livre des merveilles.
What`s based on Polo`s own experiences and what is eventually written down based on others accounts? Polo himself said just before he died that he had not told the half of what he saw. When he died 70 year old his wife found treasures from his journeys. One of`the precious posessions Polo left was a tablet of gold: it was his passport to the Mongolian kingdom!
Stein Morten Lund, 30 March 2009
More about Marco Polo:
Project Gutenberg's texts of The Travels of Marco Polo, in Sir Henry Yule's edition:
Marco Polo and His Travels (Silk Road foundation):
F. Wood'sDid Marco Polo Go To China? A Critical Appraisal by I. de Rachewiltz
Movie about Marco Polo:
I took thirteen months and ten million dollars to record the ten-hour, four-part TV miniseries about the legendary adventurer and trader Marco Polo.
Ken Marshall played the title character, a 14th century Venetian explorer who, among other accomplishments, firmly established the "silk route" between Europe and the Orient. He also introduced such precious commodities as spaghetti and fireworks to the Occidental world.