Your extraordinary journey to the far East opened the doors to a world unknown in Europe and encouraged future explorers and navigators.
Nicolás and Mateo Polo leaving Constantinople
The Polo in Bukhara
Nicolás and Mateo Polo before Pope Gregorio X
Departure from the port of Venice
The voyage of Marco Polo
The port of Hormuz in an illustration
the book of wonders
Illustration of the book of the wonders
Illustration of the old mountain legend
Kublai Khan fighting in a battle
At the end of the 13th century, Venice was still one of the world's largest commercial and maritime powers. It was common to hear there, in the shadow of the domes of Opal, along with sumptuous palaces and the view of the Golden gondolas, the most extraordinary and Pilgrim stories. But that was master Marco Polo, recently arrived from the ends of the world, eclipsed all. He claimed to have been extracted from the bowels of the Earth, in China, some black stones which burned better than firing. The Venetians, to hear him, mocked; for them, stone coal was one of the most fantastic. He also spoke of another stone which could be spun as if it was wool, but that it was fireproof; his listeners bursting with laughter: even more difficult to conceive that the coal was asbestos. Either believed you when he described a source that had been referred to in some remote country that flowed not water, but black oil: their fellow citizens could not even suspected the existence of the oil fields of Baku.
However, it was not possible that a man, even equipped with a prodigious fantasy, imagine all that. Marco Polo had returned from their trips bringing with them great riches, among which perhaps the most valuable was the experience accumulated over twenty-four years of absence. Thousand adventures and unbelievable facts for his contemporaries crossed his mind. It had a lot to tell, not in vain was one of the greatest travellers that mankind has known.
The book of wonders, which greatly enriched the geographic European knowledge, is the only source (except some Testament and many lawsuits) that will go in search of information on the life and miracles of Marco Polo and his, since everything that could corroborate or disprove what has not is never found or , as his tomb, has disappeared. Of course that a such a fantastic book (and for some as fanciful), which has had versions, interpretations and translations without story, it has caused serious doubts, extensive discussions and any disqualification. In spite of this, all scholars seem to agree in affirming that the Polo, merchants of modest fortune, came from a Dalmatian family of Sabenico who settled in Venice in the 11th century, and cite to the grandfather Andrea. They soon integrated into the dynamic Venetian commercial world, turning it into a family of daring merchants. The grandfather of Marco had three children: Andrea, Nicholas and Matthew. Arredraban to any of the three the fatigues the distances if they glimpsed a substantial economic transaction.
Andrea, the firstborn, settled in Constantinople and established fruitful relationships with the men of the caravans coming from far countries located beyond the Black Sea. News that spoke of the conquests of the Mongols in the West Asia had soon on blighting his acute business sense, so he called his brothers, who remained in Venice, and he encouraged them not to miss that wonderful occasion of doing big business.
«Wonderful traveler» history began back by the year 1253, a few months before his birth, and is of rigour, in a trip. His father, Nicolás Polo, said goodbye to his pregnant wife, and with his brother Matthew departed heading to Constantinople in a galley filled with wood, iron ingots and forged, grain, salted meat and wool fabrics. Magnetic needle (recently imported) and stars happily guided his way to the capital of the Greeks. Shortly after arriving, Nicolas woman gave birth in Venice, in 1254, framework.
Nothing is known about the first years of life of that child who must run around the squares and bridges of Venice. Orphaned of mother very soon, is believed to have lived in the care of his aunt Flora. It seems that it received instruction, since he knew to read and write, but without doubt his best school the Venice that wandering offered it. A Venice that vibrating to the beat of business and crimes against property that which is perpetrated against persons who punished more harshly.
Nicolás and Mateo Polo leaving Constantinople
It took six years. While Marco was growing up in Venice, Nicolas and Matthew traded in Constantinople, until that one day of 1259, unsettled by threats that hovered over the city, decided to leave it to settle in Crimea, in the city of Soldaia, where businesses were not as successful as they had hoped. They were then interned in the region of steppes and settled in Bolgar.
After two years, nostalgia began to aguijonear them, and in spring 1262, were prepared to return. But fate had other plans for them. A war between Mongolian Kings broke out and return was complicated and full of dangers. They resolved to then travel towards the rising sun, and settled in Bukhara in anticipation of a quiet route to return to Venice. The trip was not easy, but the pole were a race of untiring pioneers; they bought here, sold there, learned foreign languages, and discovered new markets, receiving good treatment everywhere and establishing profitable agreements with the Mongols. These, causing much fear to Christianity, proved to be a skillful administrators who lived in peace with the subject peoples. The Muslim wall, preventing any contact between China and the West, from the 7th century was no longer more than a simple curtain. The Polo brothers were the first to cross it with success.
The Polo in Bukhara
In the city of Bukhara, in the heart of Asia and nearly five thousand kilometres away from their country of origin, Matthew and Nicholas stayed for three years, dedicated fully to trade. One day came to them a Commission sent by the great Kublai Khan, whose empire stretched from the Arctic sea to the Indian Ocean, and from the shores of the Pacific to the borders of Central Europe. The Commission gave them the invitation to visit him. A year of travel it cost them to get to the King.
The Khan had never seen Western Europeans and was an extremely strange man. Grandson of the legendary Genghis Khan, Kublai was 43 years old when the pole was led into his presence. It was a smart and experienced despot, excellent ruler and good general, possessing in addition a knowledge-hungry spirit. It made them a thousand questions on European traditions, especially their religion and the Pope of Rome, who had heard speak in glowing terms.
For this last gave them also a surprising request. Kublai, showing that he was extremely open in religious matters, asked the Pope will send one hundred learned men in the Christian creed, in order that they might have a dispute with the monks, the Buddhist monks in his country, promising to convert him and his people to Christianity if they showed that his was the best religion. And as proof of his eclecticism, also requested the merchants that they bring him oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulchre.
Two traders, turned into messengers by the grace of the great Kublai, were put in way ready to accomplish the mission, and after a journey of three years came to Venice in 1269. The wife of Nicholas had died. Nicolas first saw his son Marco, who was already fifteen years old and was a boy awake, intelligent and remarkable curiosity.
Travelers spent two years in Venice enjoying a monotonous life change; While waiting for the election of a new Pope (Pope Clement IV had died that same year) to make delivery of the letter, Nicolas married again. The concern of the pole by the unfulfilled mission was increased and the election of the new Pope was delayed, so they decided to return to China.
Nicolas (also this time leaving his current wife pregnant), Matthew and the young Marco, of seventeen years, embarked in the direction of Acre. His first concern was Theobald of Piacenza, papal legacy, whom Nicolas and Matthew already knew of his previous trip, to locate and ask for permission to travel to Jerusalem. With the papers, the three Polo sailed towards Joppe and then covered a journey of thirteen miles to Jerusalem.
Executed the first of the orders of the Great Khan, they returned to Acre with Holy oil and is ready to seek justification for failure to comply with the second. Theobald have provided letters that demonstrate the delay caused the death of the Pope and the delay in the election of his successor.
The Polo, now already quiet, resumed the journey, although they got forward well little. In Layas encountered a rebellion blocking the caravan route, and while they waited for patients who will riot the way they received an email from Acre. Tebaldo, with the name of Gregorio X, was the new Pope. The Polo returned to Acre in search of the one hundred Christian doctors, although only two friars preachers provided them.
Nicolás and Mateo Polo before Pope Gregorio X
At the beginning of 1271 they decided to split back into the Court of the Great Khan. The son of Nicolas, framework, begged his father to allow him join the expedition. Two years earlier that day after day listening to accounts of travelers, and blindly believed in their stories. Had accompanied on the visit to the Pope and, although it was only seventeen years old, was imbued with the spirit of the family. Nicolas could not refuse. I knew Marco was capable of anything, he possessed an insatiable curiosity, a privileged memory and capacity to overcome the setbacks possibly greater than yours.
From Venice to China
Thanks to the ancient laissez-passer of the Emperor, the three travelers could move forward smoothly. However, the two friars who accompanied them decided to go back to the first sign of danger. The pole continued on their way, which lasted more than three years. Marco Polo, who did a thorough and Chronicle of everything that saw, devoted only a brief page to the precise route that followed from Venice to Xanadu, leaving reconstruction of the exact route to the readers. However, it seems that after crossing the little Armenia, which described the trade, hunting and the customs of its people, «which although Christian are not good because they don't practice the religion as the Romans», they came to Anatolia, that Polo called Turcomania, land of weavers «most beautiful carpets in the world», and from there to the great Armenia where he saw "a source which mana oil which can not be used as food, but is excellent fuel".
Departure from the port of Venice
They then visited Mosul, where "beautiful fabrics of gold and silk, called mosulin make the most", and he enraptured in Tabriz to the largest balloon Pearl market. Saba said having admired the tombs of the three Magi, and in Kerman, the famous turquoise, carrying about loving misfortune of who possesses them, because it is believed that they come from the skeletons of wretched loves people.
They were attacked by bandits and attempted to wearily reach Ormuz, where it sought to ship heading for China, although once there changed plans in view of the risk posed by the low strength of ships. They then started heading to the Northeast and was interned in the continent to Tunocain, after crossing desert regions. The days passed tiring to Balkh, in northern Afghanistan. They decided to take a long, well-deserved rest in Balashan, where the caravan stopped awhile.
Buying and selling, in short to increase earnings (but not never talk of it), hunting from time to time and always admiring women («Mohammedans maidens of Tunocain, in my opinion the most beautiful in the world», or the ladies in Balashan, site that "that which seems thicker of waist down is considered most beautiful"), Marco Polo traveled with their relatives the vast Asia. They had travelled as much of the road started in the spring of 1271, and in no time had left Marco Polo noted in his memory the industries, fruits, animals (wild sheep which would be called Ovis poli in his honor) and everything that excited his curiosity, which was very much.
In the Court of Kublai Khan
In June 1275 they arrived finally at Xanadu, the summer residence of the monarch, who fled during a few months in the heat of Cambaluc (Beijing), its capital. Kublai recalled perfectly to your friends, read the Pope's letter without giving signs of deception by the absence of one hundred scholars and put the oil of the Holy Sepulcher with other treasures. They say that Kublai asked immediately who was that clever young man who accompanied the travelers, to which Nicolas replied: "He is my son and your server, and with me I have brought it with great dangers and efforts so far lands, whereas the more precious garment I have, to offer it as a slave".
And it was so. Marco Polo served Kublai for seventeen years, responsible primarily for monitor, target and report. Both acuity and intelligence of the Venetian impressed the King, how by the nonchalance with which was political affairs, he sent him first to the city of Caragian (in the province of Yunnan, to six months of travelling from the capital), where he fulfilled his role with such brilliance and drew up a report so thorough that amazed and strangers.
Ambassador for a year in Campicion, several stays in Quinsay to control the receiver of taxes, Governor for three years in Yangzhou, in addition to an Embassy in the India, were some of the missions that followed and which sandwiched a wander on their own. By then, frame already mastered several languages and Eastern dialects and could, therefore, travel without interpreter countries that were in the vast mongol Empire. The bright and vivid accounts of their experiences and the ease with which recalled thousands of details loved Khan, bored with the monotony of the reports of its officers.
While serving his Lord, soaked in China life and wouldn't see the smallest detail. Marco Polo saw and described the wonderful civilization of medieval China. Advancements of this country in relation to the Europe of the time can be checked for things that the indefatigable traveler would then remember how admirable and new for him: wide streets, rounds of police at night, public carriages, bridges high enough to allow the passage of vessels, drains under streets or roads bordered on both sides by fragrant trees and exquisitely cared. He compared the severe regulation of prostitution in the domains of the Khan with the promiscuity of the Venice of his time, it astonished the use of paper money and described some of the food they consumed, such as ice cream and pasta: «wheat does not enjoy much boom between them, but they harvested it and consumed in the form of macaroni or other pasta kinds». It was also struck «in front of a class of large black stones are extracted from the mountains..., which give fire and flames as if they were logs and used to cook better than wood».
Meanwhile, his father and his uncle enriched themselves with the trade. Discreet, efficient and faithful, three Venetians had never disappointed his Lord, who felt a true appreciation for them. Rich, had done but felt tired and had nostalgia for the soft breezes of the Adriatic, in the glow of the dome of Saint Mark, the call of the gondoliers and sweet Italian accent. It was time to return to the homeland to enjoy his fortune and establish a framework.
The voyage of Marco Polo
The difficulty was to find a pretext for spreading Kublai without offending him and, above all, without undermining the price of their fatigues. The Great Khan aged and envy for the favors that had received grew to its around. They knew China enough to know that the death of his Lord would be theirs. But it was easier to enter into the Court of Kublai who get out of it. Nicolas was in charge of first permission, 'because in my country I have wife and by law of Christians I don't forsake it as long as you live". King found perhaps too futile pretext and replied that, although they could walk through any part of their domains, «nothing in the world could leave them». They followed other requests and the answer is always negative, claiming that they were necessary.
Meanwhile, the shrewd merchants sold what they had, invested in gemstone product and drew up three dresses covered with wadding, which stitched jewels. Finally presented a favorable occasion. The mongol Governor of Persia, Argon, who was a cousin of Kublai, had become a widower. The last will of his wife was that the new consort has been chosen by the Emperor from among the descendants of Genghis Khan. He received this custom made Kublai and appointed a beautiful Princess of seventeen, Cocachin, immediately giving the order that was brought to the distant Persia.
The Polo volunteered for this mission. Marco had just returned from the India and had brought valuable reports. It was easy, he said, to reach the Persian Gulf bordering the continent to avoid numerous hazards that marked the land routes. Reluctantly, the Khan agreed. Put at the disposal of the Venetians thirteen ships, crew and an escort, delivered them a great fortune in gold and entrusted them to the maiden. Finally, in the middle of the year 1292, the Polo left Beijing.
The Polo, the Cocachin Princess, future Queen of Persia, guardians embarked on one of the huge boats chartered for the expedition and began the long journey from China to Persia, first, and Venice, then. Marco Polo continued the inveterate habit promptly described the countries through which it passed. The first appointment is Sumatra, divided into several kingdoms, where stopped five months due to bad weather. There they learned to make Palm wine and you hear about the properties of coconuts as drink and food.
Sumatra passed to the Andaman Islands and thence to Ceylon, in the India coast. In Malabar visited the Pearl fisheries and not to forget mentioning that «who drinks wine cannot be witness, nor one who browses to the sea. Because they say that a wine drinker and that sailing across the sea are desperate people and not accept them as witnesses, or they take into consideration his testimony». Gullible, Marco Polo repeats some other fantastic story, as when he says that «Indian birth children are clear complexion, but her parents bathed them weekly with sesame oil and become as black as hell».
The port of Hormuz in an illustration
the book of wonders
Two and a half years lasted the trip until reaching Hormuz, who already knew. Argon had died and the Princess Cocachin became a hindrance which did not know what to do. Finally they married with the son of Argon and were free of their custom. They arrived at the port of Venice one day winter of 1295.
Twenty-five years had passed since leave Venice; Nicolas and Matthew were already old, Marco Polo was forty-two years old and had spent most of his life in distant lands; It was a strange foreign accent who «had an indescribable air of tartar, similar to Tatar was his accent, having forgotten almost Venetian language».
When he was called to the door of his home in San Juan Crisóstomo channel, someone who didn't know what was to open. During his long absence, his relatives had believed them dead and their property had been sold. No one recognized those three strange pilgrims dressed in ragged and dirty clothes. Veneto dialect words, they are entangling in the language, so they believed them foreigners. To prove your identity, the Polo gave a banquet to which invited many personalities. During the evening they changed their clothes several times and, finally, to put the rags that covered them back, descosieron liners and showed their wealth before the stunned audience. Such abundance of sapphires, diamonds, rubies and pearls was for those merchants cresos more tangible proof that all stories in the world. Travelers willingly responded to many questions were made to them. Its history, however, seem so fantastic to all, that from now on, to nominate a charlatan, used to say in Venice: "This is a pole!"
Although branded of fanciful, the Polo were extremely wealthy. So much that when arose the war between Genoa and Venice, Marco armed a galley at their expense and sent it as a captain. But the Warrior Marco Polo did not have as much fortune as the Explorer and trader. In 1298, in the battle of Curzola, fell prisoner and he was taken to Genoa, where was forced to March barefoot through the cobbled streets before being locked up in a Dungeon of the Capitano del Popolo Palace.
The book of wonders
This misfortune, however, must you Marco Polo part of his celebrity. Because it was during his captivity when issued the wonderful book of their trips. Indeed, a man of letters prisoner as he, Rustichello da Pisa, became fascinated by their stories and gave them form during the long hours that both went together in the Genoese prison. Rustichello, author of several French romances about King Arthur, accepted with alacrity the possibility of collaborating in the description of the world. Marco Polo asked his father to send him notes that had taken over the course of his travels and dictated to his companion all what we had experienced up to that time.
Thus they arose, in French, in a perhaps not very correct French grammar and which abound in the Italian terms, a work referred to it with multiple titles: the description of the world, the book of Marco Polo, the book of wonders, the travels of Marco Polo, nicknamed the Milione... The book ended up in 'the year of 1298 grace', but the life of his hero continued.
The following year, Marco was released and returned to Venice with the manuscript, did copy by some friends and sent him to edit. The narration would be an extraordinary success, while it was considered to be pure fantasy. Marco Polo was already forty-five years and immersed himself in the business. Little by little it was inheriting from all his relatives, and each time was more greedy and friend of lawsuits. She got married and although date of its link with Donata, daughter of Vitale Badoer, not recorded in any register (the first documented report referred to above it is a legal letter of 17 March 1312, by which his uncle liquidating the dowry for framework), were born three daughters: Fantina, Bellela and Moreta.
The coming years occurred uniform and monotonous for him who had known a lavish Court brawls. Devoted body and soul to the trade, selling glass lamps, brought to Venice Florentine fabrics or mattered Indigo leaves on a large scale. They say that he always quoted astronomical figures and assumes that there the Milionenickname came: «because of continuously repeat the history that had frequently over the splendor of the Great Khan, of their riches, they were ten to fifteen million in gold, and the mode of talk about always many other riches of those countries in terms of million» He was given the nickname of messer Polo Milione". There have been, however, other explanations on the nickname.
Lived his last years in peace and Commerce until his death, in the evening of January 8, 1324, death, who, like him, went unnoticed for his countrymen. He was seventy years old. Buried him, according to his wishes, next to his father, on the porch of the Church of San Lorenzo, tombs that, like almost everything that is part of the life or the death of Marco Polo, have disappeared.
Little is known of his character or his appearance, and the "portrait of Marco Polo" which appears in a book is only the illusion of its author. It is assumed that it was strong and sturdy, since he endured long and tiring travel, and by the story of his life, nobody can doubt that was an unquestionable, always attentive observer. They also describe him as intelligent, persistent, patient and energetic. Impulsive and somewhat stubborn in his youth, tempered it the trip in the company of their relatives much older than him, and became, at the end of his life, lover of the money and the lawsuits, since it not repaired in family ties when it owed him something, as little as it was, which shows that was relentless and rigid in their trade relations. It was a typical European of his time, to whom no prodigy seemed impossible, but it was, that Yes, tolerant of those whose beliefs were different from theirs.
The extensive accounts of festivities, food and wines seem to indicate, Furthermore, that he enjoyed the pleasures of life. Some scattered notes book of wonders do assume that "it was well formed and sympathetic figure and face, without being handsome", and through any phrase can be deduced is that «women of different races found it attractive», but it is very difficult to separate the reality of the fable in the life of a Venetian who had fame of storyteller.
His contemporaries did not take it at all seriously, even his friends, worried about the bad reputation that I reported him «so exaggerated stories», was advised to "correct the work and withdraw what had to write out the truth». It is said that Marco Polo replied: «I have not written even half of the things that was given me to see». Half a century later, other travellers confirmed, point by point, as reported by Marco. Is it required much longer to dissipate Fables halo surrounding his book. And one hundred fifty years later, information that a large ocean bathing Asia East suggested a sailor the idea of sailing West across the Atlantic, was possible to come to China. It was Cristóbal Colón, and today we know that he took with him during his travels a volume of fabulous history of Marco Polo.
Chronology of Marco Polo
|1254||Born in Venice.|
|1269||Nicolás Polo, his father and his uncle Mateo Polo returned to Venice after a journey that had taken them to the Court of the mongol emperor Kublai Khan.|
|1271||After completing the orders of the Emperor, Marco Polo, his father and his uncle embark on the journey bound for China.|
|1275||They finally arrive at Xanadu, the summer residence of the Great Khan.|
|1275-92||Marco Polo becomes a favorite of the Great Khan, he served as Ambassador and Governor. While traveling to the India and various regions of the Empire, while his father and Uncle are enriched by trade.|
|1292||They set off on the return journey.|
|1295||Come to Venice.|
|1298||It is involved in the struggles between Venetians and Genoese. Captured by the Genoese at the battle of Curzola, is imprisoned in Genoa.|
|1298-99||During their stay in prison he dictates to the writer, Rustichello da Pisa, also prisoner, the account of his travels, which will lead to the famous book of wonders.|
|1299||It regains freedom. It is dedicated to trade and at uncertain date he married.|
|1324||He died in Venice at the age of seventy.|
Marco Polo travel
Marco Polo was seventeen years old when, in 1271, left Venice and, in the company of his father, Nicolas, and her uncle Matthew, undertook the trip to the far East. There he lived at the Court of the emperor Kublai Khan, witnessed battles of elephants, he spoke with Chinese astrologers and magicians and Tibetan lamas, dwelt in Kings palaces and tents of nomads, participated in hunting with trained Tigers, was Ambassador, Governor and spy for the emperor. His eyes looked at races and wonderful landscapes, and awed by its description to the Western world.
In 1295, Marco Polo returned to Venice and was involved in the conflict which his city maintained with Genoa for mercantile hegemony. When in 1298 reportedly took part, as sopracomite under the command of a galley, in the naval battle of Curzola, was captured by the Genoese. So he went to a prison, where he met the writer, Rustichello da Pisa, who narrated his amazing trip to far East. His account, written at the end of the 13th century, is the most exciting ever narrated trip.
The book of wonders
The book that grew out of the story of Marco Polo to Rustichello da Pisa was titled exactly, according to tradition, the book of Marco Polo citizen of Venice, million, where the wonders of the world are called. Over time it was also called the description of the world, the discovery of the world, Wonderland book or book of the wonders of the world and Il Milione or Milione (million).
It is widely believed that the title of Il Milione emerged from the ironic nickname that the contemporary Marco Polo gave to understand that he was exaggerating when he talked about the fabulous riches of Cathay. "I have not written even half of what I saw," argued uselessly. The scholar Giovanbattista Ramusio, in his work about navigations and travels (published in 1559), wrote that young Venetian people visiting Marco Polo to ask things of Cathay and the Great Khan. As Marco Polo said that the incomes of the Grand Khan "were ten to fifteen million of gold, and so other many countries wealth them meant all million, put her nickname Messer Marco, called million, yet, so in the public books of this Republic where mention is made of it, I've seen it noted: and their home court" Since those times here, it is commonly called the million."
In fact, in Venice, there is a small square called Corte Seconda of the Milion, where there are vestiges of what probably were the housing and warehouses of the Polo. However, some scholars say that million was the nickname family of the pole by Apheresis of Emilione, so that the title of Il Milione , given to the book would be tantamount to "Emilione book", or what is the same, "book of Polo".
Marco Polo and Rustichello
It is not known for certain if the account of his adventures in lands of Cathay was made by Marco Polo to Rustichello da Pisa in its entirety during their stay at the Genoese prison or completed later in Venice. Rustichello has been identified, by some, with a son of Guido Rustichelli, judge and notary of Pisa, and, by others, with a clerk of the visit of Emperor Enrique VII of England to Italy between December 1310 and may 1313.
The prominence of Rustichello decision to write the book and the degree of involvement in the layout and writing of the text is unknown. It is a very controversial question: for some, Marco Polo would be the only author and Rustichello would collect the dictate of the Venetian, using the chivalric tradition to compose a story that should be read with delight by his contemporaries; for others, the dictation would be part of that same tradition, a Convention that hides the prominence of the scribe Rustichello. This, in addition to the oral testimony of Marco Polo, would have employed several documents written by the Venetian, which would explain the precision, abundance and detail of certain information from the book, difficult to store in the mind after so many years. As to the nature of these documents, they could be small notes, itineraries and maps.
In any case, Rustichello knew how to identify fully with the "description of the world" that made him "Messer Marco Polo, wise and noble citizen of Venice", because things which he spoke, from the superb riches to the fantastic creatures, I had seen them "with their own eyes". Likely Rustichello also brings something of his fantasy, when Marco Polo met him already was author of a novel of Arthurian knighthood, whose two parts are titled Meliadus and Guiron le Courtois, and in which merge the traditions of the Knights of the round tables of Uter Pendragón and his son Arthur. The very beginning of the book evokes the presentation of a minstrel to his audience: "gentlemen, emperors and Kings, Dukes and marquises, counts, Knights and burghers...".
Illustration of the book of the wonders
Speculations about the writing of the book are based on the loss of the original manuscript. The oldest of them that have survived is written in between, but with many Tuscan and Venetian words. Dr. Barbara Wehr said that the closest to the original text would be translated into latin by friar Francisco Pipino between 1310 and 1317, from a first Venetian original. According to this historian, the mysterious Rustichello would have invented the dictates of framework to give verisimilitude to his work, expanding the original frame with travel and adventure based on chivalrous literature. On the other hand, John Larner bets on literary cooperation between the traveller Polo, which remained baffled by his experiences in the East, and a scribe who poured those experiences in a literary cast to 1298, according to formulas and rhetorical traditions of chivalric literature.
Several researchers are committed to the existence of two or more original versions, as a result of various drafts and attempts. They are would have originated fifty hundred medieval manuscripts currently preserved, many of which do not have an end, something that was invented early Tuscan translator who thought it needed one. The first printed edition was published in Nuremberg in 1477.
An awed Narrator
The book of wonders was the first work of the West who described systematically the Eastern world and especially in China, where Marco Polo had lived for seventeen years in the service of the emperor Kublai Khan, of the dynasty Mongolian Yuan. Conceived as the book of memoirs of a merchant, its pages thoroughly inform about the postal, customs, monetary and administrative organization of the countries visited, at the same time that recreate the exotic polychromy of the oriental society.
In the story of Marco Polo manifests a tone marveled to the spectacles of nature and peoples of the delicious and mysterious Eastern regions. Very famous are its pages about the old mountain (whose legend found traces in many medieval novels), about the life of the summer residence of the Great Khan in Xanadu and the uses of the former Chinese Empire. Bella is his breath epic and fabulous description of the battle between the Alan King (Halagu, Khan of Persia) and the King boat (Berke, Khan de la Horda de Oro); It is reproduced so accomplished the struggle between two peoples conquerors in the bloody sense of the struggle for life and glory.
Illustration of the old mountain legend
Great for his discoveries of new lands are the descriptions of their long journeys on horseback by Landes endless, going to Ford rivers, finding unknown even to the same Oriental people, and knowing animals hitherto considered to be fabulous. They are notable for their strictly documentary appearance, in what refers to its merchant, news about rare spices (such as for example the pepper and Ginger) or activity on oil from Armenia, the fossil carbon from the Cathay and precious stones.
Marco Polo is proud of European, accustomed to an ancient civilization; but in the same way that sensed a new life of wandering peoples of spell and mystery, known to sustain a tone very his moderation and prudence, due to the knowledge of men so far from their homeland. An important historical document is made by the narration of the industriousness of frame in Yangzhou, where he was Governor for three years. His actions always shows a great skill of man who can appreciate the facts and things, and in all occasions applied a spirit of fair and precise moderation that manages to dominate events. Thus shines its sanity of Guider of men (old style Venetian) even in the midst of difficult setbacks.
But what most attracts the narrative of Marco Polo (and is the spell that have ever experienced his European readers even through bad rebuilt its narration) is that sense of amazement and wonder world-appeared as for charm in the eyes of a man accustomed to the hardness of the daily life, industry and traffic and the risks of sailors and merchants : palaces of gold and silver, fragrant gardens of thousand rare flowers, solemn ceremonies among prosternadas crowds before idols and real authorities, troops of warriors in tremendous struggle for the possession of a land, and customs, languages, feelings never known by the ancient Mediterranean civilization, if they were not influence through some distant legend.
This installment to a world of contrasts and Splendors animates this extensive narration, gives a poetic universe characters and places it among the most rich testimonies of medieval Europe and the time of the first geographical discoveries. And justly is has been able to say that with his book Marco Polo gave Italy precisely the epic and sturdy work that was lacking in comparison to chivalric literature of other peoples.
The mongol Empire
Information about the customs of the Court of the Great Khan is very valuable. The book of the wonders of the world describes their lineage, expansion, wars, battles, funeral rites, banquets, celebrations and ceremonies, highlighting the birthday of the monarch. All their kings and vassal Princes sent expensive gifts and the priests of various religions invoked the gods with solemn prayers for life, health and prosperity of the Mughal Emperor. In correspondence, has brand Polo, "all these wears them himself provided that celebrate a party, which are thirteen per year, and also gives them in all aforementioned parties belts of gold of great value and camocan shoes recamados silver in a very exquisite way, so that each one of them, covered with this outfit regio, resembles a great King".
The Venetian Kublai describes as very handsome, of medium stature, round, white face, black eyes, beautiful nose and well proportioned body. The news of the sexual life of the Great Khan awakened great interest in Europe. Had four legitimate women and a large number of concubines. The first had, each of his own Palace, with three hundred maidens selected and bred many eunuchs. Six of them ("a Tatar village called Unctas beautiful women") had the care of the regia camera during three days and three nights, attending to the monarch and sleeping in his room. The fourth day, six women relevaban the first and dealt with the same requirement for other three days, and so on. The Tartar sovereign had twenty-two sons four legitimate wives and maids, the other twenty-five. The eldest son of the first wife, called Chinchis, had died, being named heir to another son, named Themur, which Marco Polo describes as brave and prudent.
Rich are the descriptions of Cambaluc (Khanbalic) Winter Palace, in the vicinity of Beijing, where he resided for three months. The Palace was a square of monumental dimensions: one mile on each side, with walls of great thickness, painted red and white. At each corner of the wall, and in the center of them, stood beautiful palaces; the center of the city was reserved for the Royal residence. Between the different palaces and buildings stretched ponds and vast gardens, where various types of animals, such as white deer, goats and deer lived.
Anywhere that the Great Khan knew that there was a beautiful tree, "made that you moving there with its roots on the back of elephants, even from remote regions, and orders you to plant in the garden; Therefore, the trees grow beautiful greatly". No less impressive were the market of Cambaluc, "that surpasses in volume of recruitment to any city in the world", and the magnificent streets, "wide and pulled with such precision that line from a door, because of the righteousness of the route, the front door is seen in our". Everything about the Great Khan's dimensions and stunning riches, what fueled the imagination of Westerners.
The greatness of the Great Khan rested on the qualities of the Mongols or Tatars. They were, according to Marco Polo, men endeavored, hard, suffered, able to move and fight over long distances, disciplined and righteous. Skilled horsemen and hunters, lived in magnificent shops and were dedicated to the care of large herds. They were eating dog and horse meat, and milk "a solid paste, put in a bowl, and agitate it with a stick until it dissolves, and then drink it is".
The book describes their social customs; they were polygamous and had many children. If the father died, the son could marry his stepmother, and a brother, with his sister-in-law. Tatar women were diligent in household tasks and in the acquisition of food, so husbands were engaged in its wars and games, "but as they are now blended between various peoples, in many regions, they lose many of their customs and are attached to the way of life of others."
Kublai Khan fighting in a battle
In the description of South China, the wealth of data in the mongol world vanishes and the book of the wonders of the world becomes a list of cities, distances, commercial products, and religious practices. Despite the shortcomings, the description of the southern Chinese provinces was the part of the book that aroused greater interest among the readers of medieval and Renaissance, as Columbus or Magellan. Absences and silences of the Venetian are very significant: Marco Polo does not mention the great wall, writing china, the practice of acupuncture, the custom of bandaged toes girls, the popular tearooms, nor Taoism or Confucianism. They might be faulty memory or lack of interest by the Chinese people, or even contempt, since his admiration was heading to the Mongols and their leaders.
Not knowing Chinese, Marco Polo employed Mongolian geographical terms and a good number of Persian, such as Pianfu, Taianfu, Ciorcia and Quengianfu place names, since the Persian language was widely used in the Court of the Great Khan. According to some historians, a Persian map served him to nominate the populations of Central and southern China, collecting information on each (location, size and economic activities) population of Persian or Mongolian merchants.
The meaning of the work
The reading of the book of Marco Polo is multiple. Although it is not a tale of adventure, the narration of some episodes and the very fact of a trip to places so remote aroused the curiosity and imagination of readers, who have become a new Ulysses framework. Allusions to miracles, monsters from Greco-Roman traditions and inexplicable facts harmonize the book with the literature of Wonderland (marabilias), events, and things that were not developed in accordance with the normal course of nature and that the men were unable to comprehend.
Wonderland populated the accounts of travellers for centuries. An example is the column of the temple dedicated to san Juan Bautista in Samarkand, which remained in the air after having removed the base about three spans, "and thus endures until today without support from any human support". However, most common are descriptions of Asian wealth, the movement of gold, pearls and precious stones, the trade of spices, many boats and routes, the existence of great markets and a dense network of trade routes in Asia, which refers to the commercial activity of the Polo and the Venetian Republic. The allusions to coins and currency rates, local customs, etc, make the book approximates to the manuals of merchants who circulated by the medieval Italy.
No slighting the missionary character of the work. The pole led messages of the Pope of Rome and the Western Catholic monarchs to the Great Khan. There are specific allusions to various Apostles and Saints (Saint Thomas and Saint Barsano) and cited the John pay and Nestorian and Coptic Christians. Evangelical reading of the work were numerous and many translators did to promote the conversion of the East. However, it is risky to attribute that same spirit of crusade to Marco Polo, who referred on several occasions to religious freedom: various faiths coexisted without problems under the tutelage of the Tartar sovereign. More successful is the description of the world as the work of the divine magnificence. With the voyage of Marco Polo expands the extent and beauty of creation. That would be the end of the topographical and geographical descriptions, although on many occasions is shown too schematic or prone to fantasies and fabulous events.
In short, although adventures, taste for Wonderland, Evangelical intentions and geographic information, are found in the work book is a huge picture of the Asian continent, which allow in a few hundred pages show the breadth and variety of their regions, and to list the wealth of products and people, capable of making dream merchants, Kings, and missionaries, and convey the astonishment of a Westerner by otherness in a crucial moment of European history.
Continuously reprinted in dozens of languages, the book of the wonders of the world described wealth, wars and phenomena that exceeded the limits of the known reality. Although the book has been crossed out repetitive and tedious, with landscapes and stereotypical situations, he had a brilliant success even in the life of its author, new made in the middle ages. It was translated to between, Tuscan, Venetian, French, latin and perhaps the German in a space of twenty-five years. His fame spread throughout Europe, being consulted by geographers, travelers and politicians.
Despite not being the first Westerner to visit Asia and write about it (Marco Polo followed the wake of several missionaries and traders), the description was an event for the new features introduced. The book was considered fantastic and put in doubt by his contemporaries. This negative view has been fuelled by several historians who deny the visit of Marco Polo to China. Not found documentary evidence of direct or indirect presence in Chinese sources of the time, or later. Almost all of the book (or at least the descriptions of the southern part) would be prepared with information collected by the officials of the Great Khan. But there are those who deny even the Venetian to serve to the Tartar Emperor, holding that the book would be a collection of information gathered by Marco Polo to different traders and travelers arriving at the port of Soldaia (Black Sea), which limits our author would have not moved.
In any case, that book describing an entire continent and its fabulous wealth immediately obtained fortune, not only in his fantastic narration of adventure, but because it was born the yearning for religious propaganda in the missionaries and the desire to profit from the merchants: ones and others began to follow the land routes indicated by Marco Polo. And thus confirmed that he had written and ratified the desire of the wealthy reach those goals and get those riches.
A copy of the book of the wonders that fell into the hands of Enrique the Navigator served as stimulus for those expeditions that circumnavigating Africa, would lead to the Portuguese with Vasco da Gama at the head, to the establishment of a new trade route with the India. Another copy, carefully read and authenticated by Cristóbal Colón, contributed equally to push the caravels that the Catholic Kings were sent west to reach Cathay, namely the China of Marco Polo. It was not there, but was discovered the American continent. It would have to wait until 1503 so is editase text in Spanish in Seville, by Rodrigo Fernández de Santaella, clergyman and founder of the Colegio de Santa María de Jesús, history of Seville University. This edition was very important for the history of exploration, because it included valuable additives and it was read and used by many sailors and cosmographers like Juan Sebastián Elcano and Alonso de Chaves.
But regardless of these great consequences, that Marco Polo could not have anticipated, is, in addition to the veneration of Chinese and Japanese by having them revealed to the Western world, the judgment that it became Humboldt in declaring it "the greatest traveller of all times and all countries".