Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Lived from 1254-1324
Some years before St. Louis led his last Crusade there was born in Venice a boy named
Marco Polo. His father was a wealthy merchant who often went on trading journeys to
In 1271, when Marco was seventeen years old, he accompanied his father and uncle on a
journey through the Holy Land, Persia and Tartary, and at length to the Empire of China-
-then called Cathay (Ca-thay'). It took the travelers three years to reach Cathay.
The emperor of Cathay was a monarch named Kublai Khan (koo' bli-kan'), who lived in
Marco's father and uncle had been in Cathay once before and had entertained Kublai
Khan by telling him about the manners and customs of Europe.
So when the two Venetian merchants again appeared in Peking, Kublai Khan was glad to
see them. He was also greatly pleased with the young Marco, whom he invited to the
Important positions at the Chinese court were given to Marco's father and uncle, and so
they and Marco lived in the country for some years. Marco studied the Chinese language,
and it was not very long before he could speak it.
When he was about twenty-one Kublai Khan sent him on very important business to a
distant part of China. He did the work well and from that time was often employed as an
envoy of the Chinese monarch. His travels were sometimes in lands never before visited
by Europeans and he had many strange adventures among the almost unknown tribes of
Asia. Step by step he was promoted. For several years he was governor of a great Chinese
Finally he and his father and uncle desired to return to Venice. They had all served
Kublai Khan faithfully and he had appreciated it and given them rich rewards; but he did
not wish to let them go.
While the matter was being talked over an embassy arrived in Peking from the king of
Persia. This monarch desired to marry the daughter of Kublai Khan, the Princess
Cocachin, and he had sent to ask her father for her hand. Consent was given, and Kublai
Khan fitted out a fleet of fourteen ships to carry the wedding party to Persia.