Marco Polo Mythology
Copying the contents of a Persian China guide book, written by a Persian merchant, seems a distinct possibility, as the manuscript has minimal amounts of first-person writing.
Marco Polo Mythology
Born in 1254, possibly and probably in Venice, Marco Polo was still only 17 when, in 1271, he is believed to have set out on his epic Asian journey with father Niccolo, and uncle, Matteo, returning when Marco was 41, tio find Venice at war with Genoa.
Captured and imprisoned, Marco spent his time dictating to a cell-mate, Rustichello da Pisa, an account of his adventures -The Travels of Marco Polo - documenting his Far Eastern travels for Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, which became a European best-seller.
Europeans got their first Asian insights from the book, though doubts about the chronicle, and the truth of the fantastical peoples and places Marco Polo described, have always been voiced. Most believe the Venetian adventurer picked up second-hand stories, cobbling them together with other information scraps for his account.
Archeologists pointed out that glaring inaccuracies were rife in his describing attempted Japan invasions in 1274 and 1281 by Kublai Khan, the Mongol fleet details not reflected in Japanese excavations of ship remains. Polo claimed to have been a Kublai Khan court emissary, yet his name is missing from surviving Mongol or Chinese records of the time.
Polo, in theory an acute observer of daily life and ritual in China, failed to record the ancient customs of tea drinking, women’s feet binding or, chopsticks, and even the Great Wall fails to get mentioned, absolutely nothing in the Venetian archives suggesting the Polo family ever having direct contact with China.
Copying the contents of a Persian China guide book, written by a Persian merchant, seems a distinct possibility, as the manuscript has minimal amounts of first-person writing, making it likely that the account was more a conglomeration of European Far Eastern knowledge of the time, as several of the words used in the account are not Chinese references at all, but Persian words.
It seems then, that what Marco Polo had in abundance was a flair for story-telling and an incredible memory, except when it came to the fine detail, but no compunction about how he made his living. He was undoubtedly a con-man with a glib tongue, a convincing liar who made his mark on history with an incredibly tall tale that the public were happy to swallow. How different those days were.