Marco Polo

In 1271, 17-year old Marco Polo, would set out from Venice with his father and uncle on a journey into the Mongol Empire that would last 24 years and cover more than 15,000 miles. When he returned, he recount his tales, which would be written down, and in the process, becoming one of the most important pieces of literature in western history – The Travels of Marco Polo. The book would provide Europe with one of the first comprehensive looks into the lands of the Far East, including China, Persia, India and Japan.

Episodes

Marco Polo – Part 1
In part 1 of our series, we first take a look at the journey of Marco’s father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo, who traveled to China and met the great Kublai Khan. We then follow the Polo family as they prepare for a return mission into the heart of the Mongol Empire.

Download this episode or listen online.


Marco Polo – Part 2 – The Silk Road
In part 2 of our series, Marco Polo and his family travel from the Middle East to China along the fabled Silk Road. At the end of their journey, Marco will be introduced to the legendary Kublai Khan.

Download this episode or listen online.


Marco Polo – Part 3 – The Mongol World
In part 3 of our series on Marco Polo, we do a dive into the Mongol World, including a look at the Kublai Khan. We then take Marco on his a trek to the most remote corners of China.

Download this episode or listen online.


Marco Polo – Part 4 – The Grand Canal and the City of Heaven
In part 4 of our series on Marco Polo, we take the Venetian explorer along the eastern coast of China, following the extraordinary Grand Canal. For this journey, Marco will visit some of the most wondrous – and populace – cities in the world, including Hangzhou – the City of Heaven.

Download this episode or listen online.


Marco Polo – Part 5 – The Voyage Home
In our final episode on explorer Marco Polo, we take the Venetian merchant on one last mission for Kublai Khan. Marco – along with his father and uncle – were tasked with escorting a princess to Persia. The resulting mission will take the Polos – by ship – to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and – finally – home. It will complete an epic 24 year, 15,000+ mile journey. 

Download this episode or listen online.


Maps

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Grand Canal – From Khanbaliq (Beijing) to Hangzhou (map courtesy of WikiPedia)
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People and Places

  • Marco Polo – Venetian merchant and explorer
  • Niccolò Polo – Father of Marco Polo
  • Maffeo Polo – Brother of Niccolò, uncle of Marco
  • Kublai Khan – Emperor of the Mongol Empire
  • Kokochin – Mongol princess escorted by the Polos – by ship – to Persia
  • Venice – City State in Italy. Home of the Polos.
  • Constantinople – Former capital of the Byzantine Empire
  • Khanbaliq – Capital of Mongol Empire (modern-day Beijing)
  • Xanadu/Shagdu – Summer palace of Kublai Khan, just north of Beijing
  • Hormuz – Port at entrance of Persian Gulf
  • Hangzhou – The City of Heaven. Former capital of the Song Dynasty.

Select Resources

There are numerous books on Marco Polo, but nothing is more essential than the original “The Travels of Marco Polo”. There are many different versions of this available in print, and you can find many of these – for free – at archive.org.

The best modern biography of Marco Polo that I found was Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, by Lawrence Bergreen. It did a wonderful job of putting Marco’s book into more of a narrative than the original source material.

Wikipedia has a lot of information on Marco Polo and related subjects (Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire, etc.).