Marco Polo is Born

The exact time and place of Marco Polo's birth are unknown, and current theories are mostly conjectural.

However, the most quoted specific date is somewhere "around 1254", and it is generally accepted that Marco Polo was born in the Venetian Republic. While the exact birthplace is unknown, most biographers point towards Venice itself as Marco Polo's home town. His father Niccolò was a merchant who traded with the Middle East, becoming wealthy and achieving great prestige. Niccolò and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage, before Marco was born In 1260, Niccolò and Maffeo were residing in Constantinople when they foresaw a political change; they liquidated their assets into jewels and moved away. According to The Travels of Marco Polo, they passed through much of Asia, and met with the Kublai Khan. Meanwhile, Marco Polo's mother died, and he was raised by an aunt and uncle. Polo was well educated, and learned merchant subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships, although he learned little or no Latin.

Born: c. 1254
Birthplace: Venice, Italy

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Explorer

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Travels of Marco Polo

The Venetian, greatest of medieval travelers. Venetian genealogies and traditions of uncertain value trace the Polo family to Sebenico in Dalmatia, and before the end of the 11th century one Domenico Polo is found in the great council of the republic (1094). But the ascertained line of the traveller begins only with his grandfather. Andrea Polo of S. Felice was the father of three sons, Marco, Nicolo and Maffeo, of whom the second was Marco's father. They were presumably noble, belonging to the families who had seats in the great council, and were enrolled in the Libro d'Oro; for we know that Marco the traveller is officially so styled (nobilis vir). The three brothers were engaged in commerce; the elder Marco, resident apparently in Constantinople and in the Crimea (especially at Sudak), suggests, by his celebrated will, a long business partnership with Nicolo and Maffeo.

Marco Polo was born in the thirteenth century (1254 A.D.) in Venice, an Italian city-state, and he was very much a man of his time. He had the standard education for a young gentleman--knowledge of classical authors and the basic beliefs of the church, a good grasp of French and Italian, and skills in accounting. This combination is fortunate for us, since his writings offer a window onto the world of the thirteenth century. His knowledge of culture and business made Polo very observant of humans, animals, and plants, as well as anything that might touch upon commercial opportunities. He was observant about cultures that were very different from his own and able to describe them without much bias.