World famous explorer Marco Polo was born in the Republic of Venice in the modern-day country of Italy. As such, when people ask what country did Marco Polo come from, the simplest response is to name Italy. However, he spent many years away from Italy. His biggest contribution came from his writings about his travels, especially about the time he spent in what is now China.
Marco Polo was a merchant, explorer, and writer. He was born around the year 1254 in Venice and died on January 8, 1324, also in Venice. Marco Polo was born into a wealthy family of Venetian merchants during a time when Venice was leading the world in foreign commerce. While there is no authoritative, objective account that details the specific of Marco Polo's travels over the course of his life, the general timeline of his life and travels are summarized below.
- 1262: Marco Polo's father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo had already traveled to China by the time Marco was a young child. They subsequently received an invitation from Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan (Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire and founder of the Yuan dynasty.
- 1269: Khan sent Niccolo and Maffeo Polo to Rome with a message for the pope. He wanted the pope to send 100 European priests to share knowledge with him. The pope did not fulfill this request.
- 1271: At the age of 17, Marco Polo left Venice on a journey along the Silk Road with his father and uncle.
- 1271-1274: The Polos traveled through Acre (modern-day Israel), Jerusalem, Persia, Armenia, Anatola, Georgia, Baghdad, Afghanistan, and Tartary en route to the Far East.
- 1274: The Polo party arrived in Cathay, the region that is known today as China. This is when they arrived at Xanadu (Shangdu). At the Chinese capital city of Dadu, where Beijing is located today, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle met with Kublai Khan, providing him with letters from the pope. Marco Polo began studying the Chinese language.
- 1280s: Marco Polo made his way around various parts of China, as well as the surrounding regions in Asia, as part of his work for Kublai Khan. Some notable missions included those that took Polo to Tibet, Burma, and India. Marco kept detailed accounts of everything he saw while he traveled as a special aide to Khan.
- 1292: The Polos traveled through Singapore, Borneo, Sumatra, and Ceylon on their way to Persia to attend the marriage of Kublai Khan's daughter, Princess Cocachin. After also stopping in Trebizond (in modern-day Turkey), Constantinople, and Negrepont (in modern-day Greece), they eventually returned to Rome, in modern-day Italy.
- 1295: Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle returned to Venice after having been away for a 24-year span. They had traveled a total of nearly 15,000 miles.
- 1298: Marco served in the war with Genoa. He was captured and imprisoned during which time he wrote his famous book The Travels of Marco Polo.
Marco Polo was among the first Europeans ever to visit many of the places where he traveled through the Middle East and Far East. The original journey with his father and uncle was only supposed to take a few years, so Polo certainly got to see a lot more of the world than he had originally expected. It was a life well-traveled indeed.