Marco Polo’s Influence On Later Explorers


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Around the time of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Europe was a place in need of inspiration. Marco Polo, a merchant, and still a simple man, was this source of inspiration. He was an ordinary boy during his childhood, living a similar life to the other boys his age. Although his intentions might not have been as significant as his impact, he was very influential. Marco Polo served as an influence to many later explorers. Whether it was through his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, which focused mainly on descriptions of spices and commercial goods and many other interesting trade items he encountered in his travels, he sparked an interest and desire of not only Europe, but later explorers as well . Marco Polo was viewed to have had definite charm and also having much capability. He has also proven that he was a tough man. This is evident because of the many voyages he survived, which included occurrences of bandit ambushes, disease, and not to mention the fatigue of the travel. There have been many who believe that Marco Polo was not intellectually equipped, meaning that he was not a very educated man, as no European probably was at the time . But as always, there is of course some speculation on the many aspects of the life of Marco Polo. Many people have their own beliefs of whom the real Marco Polo was and what he accomplished. There will be mention on some of the alleged negative, yet also positive aspects of his life. Despite all the accusations or assumptions of Marco Polo, history was affected as a result of his existence. He still remains an important figure in history.



Marco’s early writings in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, served as
an influence to many later explorers. Though one could argue the content of his writings, and why he wrote about the things he did, the answer is simple: He was a merchant and he wrote about things that were appealing to a merchant. This seemed to have effect on many later explorers because of the descriptions that The Travels of Marco Polo contained from the observations of Marco Polo. The interest in his book grew more and more, and it was one of the earliest books ever printed in Europe. He listed many comments on goods such as spices, gold, paper money, and many more.

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This encouraged the explorers to set sail in search of these goods, some of which were in high demand. But there was some speculation that arose questions of who really wrote what came to be known as The Travels of Marco Polo. But there is evidence that backs up Marco. His common reference to commercial goods, as mentioned before, indicates that a merchant was the author . He never wrote of the many important or interesting things he saw because he was only interested in his own trade . And some still believe that The Travels of Marco Polo was nothing extraordinary. They believe it was just re-stating what everyone else believed, he just made it sound new and different. But even if he did, he seemed to be able to interest these explorers like no one else could to strive and achieve for more, which led to many important discoveries.
It goes without saying that Marco Polo failed to mention an account of his long and interesting journey that finally landed him home. Through his book, he has


revealed new lands, their names, and mentions of their goods and riches. All this material has influenced Europe as a whole. The Portuguese certainly knew of Polo from the early years of the fifteenth century. The Portuguese, as a result of Polo, have made attempts to reach Asia and other European ventures. The Portuguese had to have known of Polo at least from the early fifteenth century. It has been said that The Travels of Marco Polo was presented to Prince Pedro (brother to Henry the Navigator) by the Venetian Senate. Regarding the impact that Polo’s book had on Portugal, a latin version appears in the library of King Duarte (1433-1438). Jafuda Cresques, son of a man who produced the Catalan Atlas, was said to have been summoned from Majorca to Portugal by Prince Henry. The Catalan Atlas draws very heavily upon The Travels of Marco Polo, therefore it is evidence supporting the influence Polo had on Portugal. Polo also brought to Europe an interest of the island of Japan. Japan had gold in great abundance because it was found there in large quantities. Japan also had pearls, red in color, that were very large and round, and worth more than the white pearls. Through observations such as these Polo created, in Europe, a general interest in exploration.
Marco Polo’s book, The Travels of Marco Polo, influenced many later explorers to succeed in their journeys. One explorer who is said to have
been inspired by Marco Polo was Christopher Columbus. He was influenced by Polo to set off across the Atlantic to take, what he believed was the direct route to Cathay. (It was not Columbus’ fault that the world had been grossly


underestimated and the West Indies and America got in his way.) Large claims have been made on whether or not The Travels of Marco Polo served as an influence to Columbus. One of Columbus’ biographers assumes that reading The Travels of Marco Polo played an important part in the formulation of his plans before 1492. Yet some believe that the contributions of Polo in his book were not necessary to Columbus because Marco’s book was common knowledge during the fifteenth century that many knew and spoke of. But there is evidence supporting the idea that Columbus’ first knowledge of The Travels of Marco Polo came well after his voyage. This evidence appears in a letter sent between 1497 and 1498 by the Bristol merchant John Day to Columbus. In it the letter stated, upon the request of Columbus, for Day to send him a copy of The Travels of Marco Polo. But there is evidence that also suggests that The Travels of Marco Polo had influence on Columbus. This evidence comes from the Toscanelli letter. If we accept this letter as authentic, it can be assumed that Columbus had a grasp of the many concepts relevant in Polo’s book. There are many beliefs to the
idea of Polo’s alleged influence on Columbus. There is evidence supporting each of the sides one could take. But it is hard to ignore the evidence that supports the idea that Columbus was influenced by Marco Polo.
Marco Polo, though very influential, did not always have a direct impact. Though he influenced many, Polo did this through explorers as well as


Europe. He influenced them mainly through his book, The Travels of Marco Polo (It was because of the discoveries of those who followed Polo that the book began to gain popularity.). He directly affected Europe, which sought after Asia (spices ect.). Though Polo affected Columbus directly, Europe did so too. But it was through Columbus, who was influenced by Polo, that gave Magellan his vision to sail around the world. Ferdinand Magellan, from 1519-1522, was the leader of the first expedition to circumnavigate the world. When Columbus made his famous voyage in 1492, Magellan was inspired and had visions of his own voyages some day. For seven years, he traded from Cochin and China to Malacca. During all these years, he had only one vision: to sail around the world heading west from Europe. Magellan had studied charts and stories which let him know that other explorers had been to the South American coast, and he was sure there existed an opening through the land mass that stretched from the North Pole south to the vast ocean that Balboa saw at Panama in 1513. So it was originally through Polo in which visions of success began. From Polo to Europe, and then Europe to Columbus, next in line was Magellan. It was this cycle which
eventually made its way to Magellan which sparked his interest and made history. The success of Magellan belongs not only to Columbus and Europe, but Marco Polo as well.



Through Marco Polo, it has been proven, that even the simplest of man can make a difference. What began as a journey that lasted sixteen years, turned out to be a life long lasting quest that changed history. He not only served as an influence to much of Europe, but many later explorers. It was through Europe in which Polo encouraged Columbus, where he also found to be of influence to Magellan. This influence was derived mostly from his book, The Travels of Marco Polo. The book’s influence was mostly comprised of descriptions of items and lands encountered by Polo. This sparked an interest of many later explorers and gave them a sense of direction in their life. Marco Polo not only changed history, but he also created it.

Hart, Henry 1967. Marco Polo Venetian Adventurer. Oklahoma: University of
Oklahoma Press. Pg. 43
Larner, John. 1999. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. China: World Print
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Humble, Richard. 1975. Marco Polo. London: Cox & Wyman Ltd. Pg. 219, 222.
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See Note 2 Pg. 70.
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See Note 3 Pg. 191.
See Note 2 Pg. 151-152.
Latham, Ronald. 1958. Marco Polo – The Travels. England: Clays Ltd. St. Ives plc.
Pg. 244.
See Note 3 Pg. 219.
See Note 2 Pg. 151- 155.
See Note 2 Pg. 160

Schuessler, Raymond. Ferdinand Magellan: The Greatest Voyager of Them All.
September – October
1984.

Moule, A.C. and Paul Pelliot. 1976. Marco Polo The Description of the World.
London: AMS Press Inc. Pg. 22


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