Many of the tales told about medieval traveler Marco Polo were just legends. But Marco Polo did live, and he stands along with Columbus and Magellan as one of the most important explorers in history.
Marco Polo came from a family of traders in Venice, Italy. When Marco was still a boy, his father met travelers in Central Asia who brought him to meet Kublai Khan, the great leader of China. The Khan asked Polo to return to Europe and bring teachers and priests back to China.
A few years later, Polo, his son Marco, and Marco’s uncle, left for the Far East. In 1275, they reached the court of Kublai Khan. They remained there for many years, exploring parts of the East that even the Khan didn’t know about, before returning to Venice in 1295.
A few years later, Marco Polo was captured by enemies during a naval battle and put in prison. While there, he wrote a book about his journeys, describing the many strange lands he had seen.
Marco Polo was the first European to describe and locate dozens of lands in the East and in Africa. His book was the basis of one of the first accurate maps of Asia, and was read by Christopher Columbus before he sailed for America.