Born in 1254 in Venice, Marco Polo is today a well-known figure of pre-Renaissance travels, and for his ground breaking travels to lands never before journeyed by Europeans. He was an Italian traveler and author, and spent the majority of his life travelling and exploring. His father Nicolo and uncle Maffeo, both merchants, had conducted business and trade in Constantinopole (now known as Istanbul) and the Crimea. However, when Genoa's merchants, rivals to the Italian Polo's, took over trade in Constantinopole, Nicolo and Maffeo were forced to find alternative trade opportunities. Thus, in 1260, they set out to the north of the Caspian Sea and reached Bukhara (which was on the caravan route to China) and remained there for 3 years. Thereafter, in 1263, joining the Persian envoys, they made their way to visit the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan in Shangdu (near present Beijing). To arrive there, they traveled the Silk Route via Samar Qand, the Northern Tibetan desert and the Mongolian Steppes. Upon their arrival, Kublai Khan commissioned them to return with 100 missionaries to convert his nation to Christianity in opposition to the threatening Islamic armies. Over the next 3 years the Polo brothers travelled via Bukhara, Persia, Syria and Acre (near Jerusalem) to arrive back home in Venice in 1269. The return to China
In 1271, at the age of 17, Marco Polo accompanied his father and uncle back to China, visiting Acre to collect a letter from the newly elected Pope Gregory X for Kublai Khan. They also collected a flask of oil from the Holy Land and 2 Dominican monks (who were later to desert the Polos) from Gregory X to deliver to the Khan. In the hopes of travelling to India by sea, the Polos traversed Persia to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, Hormuz. Yet, unsuccessful at finding a suitably safe boat, they continued travelling by land in a North-Esterly direction through Persia's deserts and mountains to Kashgar (now Kashi), on the Chinese border. As Marco Polo was...
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