Marco… Polo! If you’ve spent any time in a swimming pool as a kid, there’s a chance you’ve played the popular hide and seek game named after this famous Venetian adventurer. However, there’s much more to Marco Polo than splashing about – he was one of the most-traveled people of all time, helping to uncover corners of the globe and deliver fascinating stories for the benefit of people back home. Here are some fun facts about Marco Polo to help enlighten you.
1. Marco Polo was a teenager when he went on one of his biggest adventures.
Believe it or not, Polo started his exploring pretty early on in life. He was just 15 years old when he left his home city of Venice, Italy, to travel to the court of Kublai Khan. He traveled with his father after the death of his mother, and he would spend around 24 years exploring the East.
2. Polo covered over 15,000 miles during his adventures.
During Marco Polo’s incredible 24 years of Eastern exploration, the adventurer reportedly covered an incredible 15,000 miles, plus. He traveled along the Alaskan coast, and traveled down the Silk Road for much of his journey.
3. Kublai Khan tried to stop Polo from leaving China.
Weirdly, Kublai Khan tried to prevent the Polo family from leaving China and actually refused them permission to leave several times – simply because he enjoyed having Marco and his family around!
4. Polo went to prison and wrote his famous travelog there.
Yes – strangely enough, Marco Polo spent his time in prison wisely, writing “The Travels of Marco Polo” while incarcerated for leading an armed cabal against Genoan forces. In fact, while in prison, Polo didn’t pick up a pen – instead, he told his life story to a fellow inmate, romance author Rustichello. Rustichello would take down Polo’s words and would later compile them into the famous book.
5. Polo thought he saw some mythical creatures.
Ever the one to let his adventurous mind run wild, Marco Polo believed he’d spotted some mythical beasts while traveling around. For example, he came across crocodiles for the first time and believed they were serpents that could swallow people whole! He also thought he saw unicorns – which, as it turned out, were Asian rhinoceroses. Close!
6. Some people thought Polo made a lot of his stories up – and some are even contested still to this day.
Polo’s amazing adventures make for some seriously tall tales – meaning there’s little wonder people initially thought he was lying about his weird and wonderful travels. In fact, there are still some historians who doubt Polo’s turns of events in his books. It’s thought that Polo and Rustichello were fantastical writers – and Polo himself had been known to insert himself into popular battle stories that never actually included him.
7. He directly influenced Christopher Columbus.
Whether or not Polo’s trips and tales were actually true, one man – the intrepid explorer, Christopher Columbus – took the stories to heart. Columbus, who of course helped to “discover” America, set off on his own journeys, armed with his own copy of Polo’s adventures while he uncovered new lands.
8. There’s a type of sheep named after Marco Polo.
No, really. A species of mountain sheep, referred to in Polo’s writings while he explored ancient Afghanistan, was named after him long after he passed away. The creature in question wasn’t officially recorded until at least 1841.
FAQs about Marco Polo
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