Le Voyage de Marco Polo : À la découverte des Routes de la Soie

The Journey of Marco Polo: Discovering the Silk Roads

The name of Marco Polo and his journey resonate through the centuries as a timeless legend, conjuring up images of caravans crossing scorching deserts, fabulous cities teeming with unimaginable riches, and encounters with exotic cultures. The tale of his extraordinary journey across the Orient in the 13th century remains one of the most captivating adventures of all time. Diving into the depths of unknown lands, Marco Polo opened a window onto a world then mysterious and unexplored for Europeans. We'll delve into the fascinating tales of this intrepid traveler, exploring the wonders and challenges that punctuated his path across the vast territories of Asia. From Venice to China, passing through arid deserts, imposing mountains and splendid imperial courts, Marco Polo's journey remains an immortal testimony of curiosity, adventure and discovery.

Marco Polo, at the origins of an epic journey

Marco Polo, born in 1254 in Venice, was the son of Nicolò Polo and the nephew of Matteo Polo, two intrepid Venetian traders who maintained close commercial ties with the Orient. The intoxicating atmosphere of the travel stories recounted had a profound impact on Marco from an early age, instilling in him a fascination with distant lands and exotic cultures. Stories of teeming trade routes, precious goods, and strange customs fueled his imagination and awakened in him a burning desire to explore.

The Journey of Marco Polo

Marco Polo's journey began when he was only 17 years old. Nicolò and Matteo Polo decide to travel again to the East in 1271, this time taking young Marco with them. This initiatory journey would transform the course of Marco Polo's life, propelling him on a daring journey through unknown lands and dazzling civilizations.

The beginning of the journey: the departure from Venice (1271) and the crossing of Persia

Marco Polo's journey from Venice to the East began with a sea crossing along the Italian coast, giving the young explorer his first impressions of the vast expanses of the Mediterranean. Sailing with the waves, the maritime caravan stops in Greece, where the landscapes steeped in history do not fail to captivate Marco's imagination. After traveling the stormy waters of the Mediterranean, they finally dock at Acre, a major trading center in the heart of the Holy Land, where merchants are busy reloading their supplies for the next leg of the journey. It is here that Marco Polo begins to realize the true scope of his adventure, as they prepare to face the vast expanses of Persia. The crossing of Persia proves to be a grueling ordeal, confronting travelers with the oppressive heat of the desert and inhospitable climatic conditions. Yet amidst these challenges, Marco Polo and his caravan discover rich and opulent cities, verdant oases and bustling bazaars, providing a fascinating insight into the richness and cultural diversity of the Orient. These early experiences mark the beginning of a journey that will forever shape Marco Polo's life and stories.

Marco Polo's journey through Central Asia

After crossing the burning expanses of the desert, Marco Polo's journey across Central Asia confronts him with new, equally formidable challenges. The suffocating heat gives way to a landscape of majestic mountains, where snow replaces sand and caravans must venture to climb steep peaks. For Marco Polo and his companions, Central Asia represented not only a physical challenge, but also a place of captivating and sometimes dangerous encounters. Among the many peoples encountered, the Tartars stand out for their reputation as fierce and skilled warriors. In his writings, Marco Polo describes these formidable nomads “They are the most skillful archers in the world. They are excellent warriors and good soldiers, more enduring in battle than other peoples, and people capable of enduring great suffering and deprivation.”

Marco Polo's journey reaches the court of Kublai Khan

After four years of grueling journeys through hostile territories and exotic lands, Marco Polo and his companions finally reach the court of Kublai Khan, the powerful Mongol ruler and grandson of Genghis Khan. The capital of the Mongol Empire, Cambaluc, stands majestically a few steps from present-day Beijing, offering Marco Polo a grandiose spectacle upon his arrival. Kublai Khan, known for his tolerance and open-mindedness towards foreigners, immediately recognizes the names of Nicolò and Matteo Polo, having met them during their previous expedition. Intrigued by their knowledge of the outside world, Kublai Khan decides to take them into his service. Marco Polo, impressed by the grandeur and magnificence of Kublai Khan's court, is offered a place in his diplomatic service, paving the way for years of adventure, discovery and intrigue in the heart of the Mongol Empire.

Marco Polo begins diplomatic trip to China

The diplomatic mission entrusted to Marco Polo by Kublai Khan takes him to the furthest reaches of the Mongol Empire, exploring the distant territories of China, Burma, Thailand and Tibet. As special envoy of the great Khan, Marco Polo traveled to these remote lands, establishing diplomatic relations, collecting valuable information and forging cultural ties with the peoples he encountered. His journey even led him to assume government responsibilities, such as that of governor of Yang-Tcheou, an important Chinese port city, where he held office for three years. This diplomatic and administrative experience gave Marco Polo a deep understanding of the political, economic and social realities of the Mongol Empire, while enriching his travel stories with fascinating details and anecdotes about the lands and peoples he explored. .

Marco Polo's return journey to the West (1292-1295)

After serving Emperor Kublai Khan for seventeen years, Marco Polo and his companions decided to return to Venice, their hometown. Their return is planned largely by sea, once again confronting Marco Polo with the vast expanses of the ocean. After a maritime journey that lasted several months, Marco Polo and his companions finally landed in Venice at the end of 1295. Their return was greeted with enthusiasm by their compatriots, who marveled at the stories of their travels and the treasures brought back from the East. The ships' holds overflow with shimmering silks, glistening gemstones, and other exotic riches, testifying to the scale of their success as emissaries of the Mongol emperor. Marco Polo's triumphant return to Venice marks the conclusion of an exceptional diplomatic mission which profoundly marked the history of relations between East and West.

The map of Marco Polo's journey

Marco Polo's journey

Although all the details of his journey are not known, his book The Book of Marco Polo allows us to know the main stages which you will find on the map above and as follows:

  • Departure from Venice in 1271 with his father and uncle.
  • Crossing the Mediterranean and stopovers in Greece and Acre.
  • Travel through Persia, facing the deserts and mountains of Central Asia.
  • Arrival at the court of Kublai Khan in Cambaluc (present-day Beijing) in China.
  • Integration into the diplomatic service of Kublai Khan, traveling through China, Burma, Thailand and Tibet.
  • Assume government responsibilities, notably as governor of Yang-Tcheou.
  • After 17 years of service, decision to return to Venice.
  • Return mainly by sea, arriving in Venice with oriental treasures in 1295.

Do not hesitate to discover my old maps of the regions crossed by Marco Polo in my old maps of Asia or my old maps of the Middle East.

Marco Polo: a traveler who resonates through the centuries

Marco Polo's journey remains an extraordinary testimony of courage, determination and curiosity. By crossing unknown lands and discovering new cultures, he opened doors to new worlds, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to influence our understanding of the world and the cultures that populate it. Marco Polo rightly remains one of the greatest explorers of all time, whose daring continues to inspire future generations.

If the journey of Marco Polo and, more generally, adventure stories interest you, also discover the story of Alexander Selkirk or the journey of Dona Isabel in the Amazon.

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