Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Marco Polo was a thirteenth-century Venetian explorer, arguably the world’s most well-traveled explorer, and The Travels of Marco Polo chronicles his journey through Asia as a special envoy to Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan was the rich and powerful leader of the Mongol Empire, and he commissioned Marco Polo to travel through his empire and survey the people and their traditions, the flora and fauna, and the geography of the land.
Marco Polo began his travels at the age of seventeen, and he spent the next twenty years trekking across a vast area of the world that most had ever explored. He told the stories of his journey to the narrator of the book, Rustichello of Pisa, and Rustichello relates the tales of the explorer’s travels. He also creates a portrait of what was then the Mongolian Empire as a culturally rich and wondrous land. Marco Polo traveled along the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that wound through Northern China, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and Eastern Europe. In The Travels of Marco Polo, Rustichello recounts the explorer’s encounters with the people of these lands and the experiences he had that gave him a personal understanding of the various cultures in the Mongolian Empire.