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Marco Polo’s legacy is arguably the greatest of any medieval figure. While he was by no means the first European to reach China – his father and uncle did so a generation earlier, making the younger Polo’s journey possible in the first place– his account, The Travels of Marco Polo, popularized knowledge of India and Asia across the continent. It was a massive bestseller in its first print run and defined ideas about China and the Orient for centuries to come; it has remained in print for centuries and a bestseller ever since. In it he discussed the fabulous wealth of China and the court of Kublai Khan.

While much of his account is filled with incredible exaggerations or outright fictions – mythological animals make numerous cameos in the work – it inspired a new generation of explorers to push past the extents of the known world. His book was incorporated into some important maps of the later Middle Ages, such as the Catalan World Map of 1375, which was read with great interest in the next century by Henry the Navigator and Columbus. The effects of his journey on European intellectual and cultural life were far-reaching. Accounts of the lands in the East stimulated renewed interest in discovery and helped launch the European Age of Exploration.

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"Travelers and Explorers, Part 2: Marco Polo (1254-1324) — Opening the Door to the East" History on the Net
© 2000-2024, Salem Media.
June 13, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/travelers-and-explorers-part-2-marco-polo-1254-1324-opening-the-door-to-the-east>
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