Marco Polo: The Incredible Journey
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Born in Venice in 1254, Marco began his travels when his explorer father took him off into the great unknown 'East'. Some twenty years later, Marco returned to Venice filled with tales of the wonders he had seen: black stones which burned with a bright flame, coconuts, paper currency and crocodiles. While imprisoned in a Genoa jail he composed a book of his adventures, A Description of the World, with fellow prisoner, Rusticello. The work earned Marco Polo the title 'The Father of Geography' and Christopher Columbus even took a copy of it on his voyage to the new world. But it also generated much controversy and, to many, Marco became known as Marco of the Millions - a teller of a million tall tales.
Marco's manuscript has long since disappeared and it is from copies and translations that we can learn of his time as the ambassador of the ruthless dictator Kublai Khan, his travels to Vietnam, Java, India and Arabia, and his exploration of China. But did this intrepid Venetian really become the first European to cross the continent of Asia? Did he escape death by offering to deliver the Khan's daughter as a bride to the Caliph of Baghdad? Robin Brown examines the truth of Marco Polo's claims and gives us a wholly new view of the man who made history happen.
fine buildings, vineyards and well cultivated, fertile ground. Here is the large, impressive city of Goaza where the idolaters have a great number of convents. The people are in the main traders and manual workers. They make gold tissue and the most beautiful fine gauzes. There are a great number of inns for travellers. A mile from here the road divides, one going to the west across Cathay (Northern China) and the other south-east to Manji (Southern China). If you take the southern route there
Likewise the towns and cities, many of great importance, encountered on a further journey six days south to the city of Tudin-fu. This was formerly a magnificent capital but the Grand Khan sacked it. It remains a delightful place to live thanks to beautiful gardens with handsome shrubs and superb fruit trees. Silk is produced here in extraordinarily large quantities. Eleven cities and several towns are administered from here and it was ruled by its own king until Kublai conquered it. As is his
their cup, instead they pour the wine or other beverage into his hands and he drinks that way. Any offence in this country is punished with strict and exemplary justice, and they have an interesting law for dealing with debtors. Should a man renege on his debts by lying and evasion, the creditor may attach his person by drawing a ring round him. From this he dare not escape until he has paid off his debt or offered adequate security. Escape the ring and you are liable to the death penalty! On
fierce and dreadful encounter turned into a slaughter. And the outcome? Complete stalemate! Kaidu especially performed great feats of arms, indeed but for his personal involvement in the battle his army would have lost its nerve and been routed. Similarly, on the other side the heirs of Kublai and Prester John fought with great bravery. The battle lasted until nightfall and in spite of all their efforts neither army could drive the other from the field. There were corpses everywhere and many a
aware of the odds against him but told his men they were more experienced and would prevail. Intelligence had also been received by Alau that the attack would be launched three days hence and he urged his vast assembly of Eastern Tartars to be ready to die rather than dishonour themselves. On the morning of the battle Alau rose very early and showed great skill in the disposition of his mighty army, dividing them into thirty squadrons of one thousand horsemen, each very well led. Then they