Today in World History: September 15th

Marco Polo, Italian explorer and merchant, was born on this day in 1254. His father and uncle were merchants in the Republic of Venice, one of many Italian Republics at the time vying for control over the trading posts in the Mediterranean. Polo’s father and uncle were in China during much of his earlier life, but in 1269 they returned, and upon setting off once more towards China, taking Marco along with them in 1271. They arrived at the court of the Mongolian Khan Kublai, where Marco made an impression on the emperor. He quickly became a favorite of the Khan, and was sent off on missions from the emperor around the Mongolian Empire. However, the death of Kublai Khan and the hostility from the other members of the Mongolian court forced the Polo family to return to their home in Venice. In 1296 Marco Polo returned to Venice, at the time at war with the Republic of Genoa. Captured in battle, Marco spent the next couple of years locked up in prison, recounting his tale to his cellmate. Upon his release, he returned to Venice once more, this time to the home his family had purchased with the riches they had gathered during the voyage. Polo became a wealthy merchant, marrying and having three daughters before dying in January of 1324 of an unspecified illness, at the age of sixty nine.

Without stones there is no arch.

-Marco Polo

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