The exact time of Marco Polo’s birth is unknown, but we currently know that it was sometime around 1254 in Venice. His father, Niccolo Polo, was a wealthy merchant who had left Marco’s pregnant mother to go and travel Asia and find opportunity with his brother, Maffeo Polo. Marco Polo’s mother died soon after having Marco, a death that filled him with great sorrow. Marco left to live with relatives soon after.
Marco’s father, meanwhile, visited Constantinople; now modern day Istanbul, Turkey. His father then went on to Soldaia, now modern day Sudak Ukraine, where they owned a house. Their way home was blocked by the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople, as well as upheavals in the Mongol Empire, so Marco’s father was forced to go east to Bukhara (present day Uzbekistan) and trade many exotic materials such as silk and gems. After three years in Bukhara, they were encouraged by many to visit Khublai Khan, grandson of the great Genghis Khan, which they did. And upon arrival, Kublai Khan asked them many questions about Europe. Kublai Khan decided to send them on a goodwill mission back home to the pope.
Later, Marco’s father and uncle returned and Niccolo Polo was excited to finally get the chance to visit his wife and kid. On arrival, he found out that his wife was dead and that she had only left behind a son, fifteen years of age, named Marco. Marco’s father, upon arrival, shared the stories of his travels with him. Marco was interested in the family affairs, and two years later, set out on another journey with his father and uncle. During the journey, they decided to sail to Acre, in present day Ukraine. At the request of Kublai Khan, they secured holy oil from the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
This trip was the start of many for Marco Polo. He journeyed for 25 years across the world with his father and uncle. Upon his arrival again to Venice, he was not greeted well, soon after coming back home he was captured and sent to prison by Venice’s archrival Genoa in battle. While in prison, he collaborated with a man called Rustichello of Pisa, with whom he was hoping to write a book commonly known as “The Travels of Marco Polo”, which, when finished, became a popular book in Italy. The book was based on his notes that he took during 25 years of travels. It described life in the Mongol Empire and the practices and teaching of the empire as well. It included inventions that were created outside of Europe that had not been introduced and much, much more.
Coincidentally, soon after finishing his book, a Genoesece-Venetian peace treaty was signed releasing Marco Polo from prison. After being released, he left Venesian territory and married Donata Badoer, who he would later have three daughters with. Not much information is known about what happened after being released from prison (except for the last sentence). Marco Polo died in January 1324. He is important to our history because he inspired many explorers and created a new age, an age of exploration.