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His pilgrimage through the East began in 1271 when, still a teenager, he found himself traversing the most exotic lands-from the dazzling Mongol empire to Tibet and Burma. This fascinating chronicle still serves as the most vivid depiction of the mysterious East in the Middle Ages.


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His pilgrimage through the East began in 1271 when, still a teenager, he found himself traversing the most exotic lands-from the dazzling Mongol empire to Tibet and Burma. This fascinating chronicle still serves as the most vivid depiction of the mysterious East in the Middle Ages.

30 review for Travels of Marco Polo (Signet Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    WILLIAM2

    I find it interesting how Marco Polo's description of the Middle East of more than 700 years ago is pretty much a reflection of the way it is today. That is to say, in thrall to the same old tribal passions. Sad, that. The text is perhaps most remarkable for its narrator's incuriousness. We know the richness of these regions from the writings of subsequent travelers and historians, but Polo makes them all seem strikingly similar. The narrative is thin and repetitive. The only thing that makes th I find it interesting how Marco Polo's description of the Middle East of more than 700 years ago is pretty much a reflection of the way it is today. That is to say, in thrall to the same old tribal passions. Sad, that. The text is perhaps most remarkable for its narrator's incuriousness. We know the richness of these regions from the writings of subsequent travelers and historians, but Polo makes them all seem strikingly similar. The narrative is thin and repetitive. The only thing that makes the text special is its provenance. Not without interest, but too repetitive to sustain my own. Stopped reading page 200.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    On the face of it this the classic account of traveller Marco Polo's journey from Venice to China and back again is pretty straight forward. Man makes journey, writes book, has mint named after him. Yet it is still controversial over what it alleges, contains and does not contain. The book has a complex and unclear textual history. That names of persons, places and offices are in a Persian form is remarkable given the claim that the Polos were active at the court of the Mongol Khan in China (view On the face of it this the classic account of traveller Marco Polo's journey from Venice to China and back again is pretty straight forward. Man makes journey, writes book, has mint named after him. Yet it is still controversial over what it alleges, contains and does not contain. The book has a complex and unclear textual history. That names of persons, places and offices are in a Persian form is remarkable given the claim that the Polos were active at the court of the Mongol Khan in China (view spoiler)[ rather than the Mongol Ilkhan in Prsia (hide spoiler)] . The involvement of noted writer of courtly Romances Rustichello of Pisa, the two apparently spent some time together in prison, is grounds for suspicion -it has been suggested that possibly he was the author or compiler of the work. Though in which case one might wonder why the Travels aren't more literary and courtly in flavour. Some early commentators were disturbed that Polo doesn't mention what we now call 'The Great Wall of China', but since it wasn't built until the seventeenth century after the Mongols had been persuaded to mount up and seek out pastures new that seems a reasonable omission, others were sceptical of the Polo's claim to have worked in government service in China. But it seems there are enough examples in the Mongol world of employing, not necessarily Italians, but non-locals as administrators , judges and officials, for this to be plausible and not just the idle boast of someone who knows their story can never be fact checked. Another theory is that the book in fact was intended to be a kind of pre-Baedeker gazetteer to travel and trade in Asia for go getting ambitious European business men - I feel one would have to effectively reconstruct the text to get practical use out of it, like the number of days between towns, types of goods available in different entrepôts, ideal times of year to travel, deserts to avoid, that kind of thing - the information is there but not immediately accessible. Having said that, other medieval manuals (view spoiler)[ thinking for example of The Goodwife of Paris (hide spoiler)] are not user friendly either by contemporary standards. We are left with the facts that the thing plainly exists, and that it is what it is. The problem perhaps is us and what we expect and look for. It also contains a mildly garbled account of the rise to power of Genghis Khan and his Mongols. (view spoiler)[ I'd be inclined to give this a Ted score of two, unless it was an illustrated edition, in which case three (hide spoiler)]

  3. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Chronology Introduction & Notes Further Reading A Note on the Text Maps --The Travels List of Abbreviations Appendix Notes Index Chronology Introduction & Notes Further Reading A Note on the Text Maps --The Travels List of Abbreviations Appendix Notes Index

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    Here's a book that looks fantastic on the cover: it's the story of Marco Polo's incredible travels to the East, told by the man himself. Then you open the book and look into it a bit and realize that it might be boring against all odds. For one, it isn't the tale of his adventure. Instead, it's a systematic description of all the countries one can find east of Italy. Check that: no narrative. Then you actually start reading and you find out that no one--not Marco Polo, not the scribe who wrote do Here's a book that looks fantastic on the cover: it's the story of Marco Polo's incredible travels to the East, told by the man himself. Then you open the book and look into it a bit and realize that it might be boring against all odds. For one, it isn't the tale of his adventure. Instead, it's a systematic description of all the countries one can find east of Italy. Check that: no narrative. Then you actually start reading and you find out that no one--not Marco Polo, not the scribe who wrote down his account as they both languished in prison--could bleach the book of its wonder. I'm not kidding. Despite their best efforts to not write an adventure, the adventure shines through. I read this book in long spurts, careful not to worry about soaking up the long, listlike information on each country, instead letting the sheer weirdness of the world wash over me. I flew through reports of roads manned by bandits and directions from oasis to oasis in the deserts (much of the book reads like a seven-hundred-year-old Lonely Planet guide) so I could slow down and marvel at stories like his account of the first assassins--young men drugged and taken to a paradise of women and wine they were told was heaven. After a week there they were drugged and returned to the real world, only to be told that getting back depended on their unbending devotion to the potentate who controlled access to "heaven." Alexander the Great shows up from time to time as well, the truth of his legacy already twisted by history. But all of that pales to what Marco tells us about the great Khan's court: I was floored. Let me put it into context for you. I always wanted to be completely dumbfounded by the great wonders of human construction--things like the Eiffel Tower or Stonehenge--and it never happened to me until I stood in the courtyard at the main palace in Seoul. Something about the wide expanse paved by huge stones, all done for the love and reverence a people had for a king, knocked me senseless. I could write an essay extolling the wonder of the place, something meant to celebrate the number of man hours and the immense wealth necessary to construct such a wonder. My essay could easily be one-upped by one explaining the pyramids or the Great Wall, pushing the immensity of human achievement to the limit. But whatever any essay totes as the end-all--skyscrapers, space shuttles, lost continents, you name it--Marco Polo's account of Kublai's empire will smash it. It was to big, too great, too much. And to top it all, the emperor seems like a decent guy. And that's only half of the book. Polo gets to wander around for another eighty pages or so before concluding that he's covered the known world. My verdict: entirely worth it. And there's no test at the end, so you can breeze through all the geography (though having a map handy can be quite fun--I can only imagine what a dedicated Google Earthling could do) and just enjoy the feeling of peeking in on a world of culture that has more or less disappeared completely.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    I loved it. He was lying most of the time about India, however... I mean, it's hot here in the tropics, but boiling eggs in the river? And dog-headed people?? But they were such colourful and entertaining lies. 😊

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    Il Milione, the legendary account of Marco Polo's travels is a fascinating view into history. Commonly known as The Travels of Marco Polo in English, this thirteen century travelogue offers an unique view of an European adventurer and merchant visiting countries unknown to most Europeans. Marco Polo is cited as an author, but Il Milione was supposedly written by Rustichello da Pisa based on Marco Polo's personal narration of his travels. The two spent some time in prison together if I remember c Il Milione, the legendary account of Marco Polo's travels is a fascinating view into history. Commonly known as The Travels of Marco Polo in English, this thirteen century travelogue offers an unique view of an European adventurer and merchant visiting countries unknown to most Europeans. Marco Polo is cited as an author, but Il Milione was supposedly written by Rustichello da Pisa based on Marco Polo's personal narration of his travels. The two spent some time in prison together if I remember correctly. So, this book has a co-writer it could be said. Over the years there has been some despite over book's authenticity. The question whether Marco Polo really visited all those places was often raised. I personally don't really care whether every single story in it is 100 percent historically accurate. I think it's accurate enough. This book describes Polo's travels through Asia. It often describes local traditions and customs of people Polo passed by. It is filled with descriptions, and one feels more like one is reading an encyclopedia then a travel or adventure book, but I found it interesting. My favourite part of the book was Marco Polo's experiences at the court of Kublai Khan. Anyhow, this is a nice read. It is easy to see how it influenced numerous artists and writers. I listened to an audio version of it that lasted for about 7 hours and had a surprising number of musical numbers. I also read a part of it (before option for an audio version). Honestly, I plan to read it once again, because I had a feeling I might have missed something (I've been a bit distracted lately). Despite it being historically relevant and quite interesting, for most parts Il Milione is not an engaging read. There are some fascinating and engaging bits, but on overall one doesn't get the feeling of a personal narrative. The writing style leaves something to be desired. However, it is an important book and one well worth a read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    While this book can be fascinating and highly amusing, it is also extremely repetitive, fictitious, and at times, downright boring. I'm glad I read it, but I wish I had read a different translation. According to the translator of this edition, other people cut out the repetitive parts and the narrative technique of saying, "I will tell you" and things like that. I would probably have gotten through the book much more quickly without those things. That being said, it's a classic, and it does have While this book can be fascinating and highly amusing, it is also extremely repetitive, fictitious, and at times, downright boring. I'm glad I read it, but I wish I had read a different translation. According to the translator of this edition, other people cut out the repetitive parts and the narrative technique of saying, "I will tell you" and things like that. I would probably have gotten through the book much more quickly without those things. That being said, it's a classic, and it does have its merits. The most interesting parts were those so out there that the reader knows they're fake and the parts about things that other historical accounts have corroborated because I know they're more or less accurate, so this book just offers a different perspective on an accepted truth. I recommend this book only to people interested in 13th-century history and people who enjoy travel narratives, fictitious, truthful, or blends of both.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    What a bunch of superstitious people those Idolaters and Saracens are. They are always appealing to their astrologers and magicians when faced with issues to resolve. They’re nothing like nor as worthy as the ‘blind Shoemaker’ who poked out his own eye in order not to lust within his heart at a woman as he was fitting her for shoes and when all the other Christians within that country (Persia?) could not possess as much faith as a tiny mustard seed and could not move a mountain under penalty of What a bunch of superstitious people those Idolaters and Saracens are. They are always appealing to their astrologers and magicians when faced with issues to resolve. They’re nothing like nor as worthy as the ‘blind Shoemaker’ who poked out his own eye in order not to lust within his heart at a woman as he was fitting her for shoes and when all the other Christians within that country (Persia?) could not possess as much faith as a tiny mustard seed and could not move a mountain under penalty of death from the Khan, through all that was holy the blind Shoemaker did move that mountain and the Khan remained a secret Christian always secretly wearing a cross until his death. Of course, the three Wisemen were Magi and therefore magicians and astrologers and their astrology properly showed to them and proved to them that the Messiah and the Son of God was to be born in a manger in Bethlehem and they are not like the fake astrologers or idolaters as the others who make up these unintentionally ironic adventures of Marco Polo since Marco Polo knows exactly what happened to them and where they ended up at after the birth of Christ. Prestor John is real and Nestorian Christians are heterodox but they are much better than Idolaters and Saracens because at least they believe in the two natures of Christ but don’t fully comprehend the three persons of the Trinity as three characters but each with separate natures but the same (whatever?). I often wondered what happened to my favorite Apostle of all, I’ve read the Book of Thomas and now I know that Thomas was real and evangelized India and the shrines prove it beyond superstitious folly. All of the women are the most beautiful in the world in that region of Persia that Marco Polo mentions, and in that other region, they have large rears and that is highly praised by the men of that country. In that other region, they do not value chastity and see it as a vice since the women love to give of themselves to strangers and the family expects highly prized gifts in return which, indeed, brings great honor onto their family. I would call it pimping out family members, Marco Polo called it virtue. Absurdities about the other never go out of fashion. When it comes to our own absurdities, we just special plead them out of existence. It doesn’t really matter that almost every specific thing in this book is a fabrication of some sort, what matters is that people believed it could be true, since, after all, Idolaters and Saracens don’t believe in the right set of myths as Marco Polo and his readers did. There was not one accurate thing about Buddhist, Hindu or Chinese religions mentioned in this book. Anybody who thinks this is an accurate portrayal of the East and believes the East is just like that today should vote for Donald Trump and continue with their special pleading for their own myths.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    It took me forever to finish this. A massive book of facts without flesh. It was like reading a phonebook -- dry, repetitive, lacking depth and in need of a good editor. And every so often, you'd come across odd statements like this: "But, now that we have embarked on this topic, we have had second thoughts about setting it down in writing; for after all it is very well known to many people. So let us drop the subject and start on another one…" It was very strange to me how any traveler to these f It took me forever to finish this. A massive book of facts without flesh. It was like reading a phonebook -- dry, repetitive, lacking depth and in need of a good editor. And every so often, you'd come across odd statements like this: "But, now that we have embarked on this topic, we have had second thoughts about setting it down in writing; for after all it is very well known to many people. So let us drop the subject and start on another one…" It was very strange to me how any traveler to these fascinating places could make them seem so dull.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    The Travels of Marco Polo may be perhaps the most challenging travelogue ever put together. While Marco Polo was not the first to write about lands distant and alien to one’s own, he wrote of a journey of immense challenge and difficulty. Difficulty that is difficult to appreciate in our modern world. First of all, the most notable controversy; was Maro Polo a fraud? This reader disagrees. While some regard it as suspect that he traveled to Yuan Dynasty China and did not mention the largely Han The Travels of Marco Polo may be perhaps the most challenging travelogue ever put together. While Marco Polo was not the first to write about lands distant and alien to one’s own, he wrote of a journey of immense challenge and difficulty. Difficulty that is difficult to appreciate in our modern world. First of all, the most notable controversy; was Maro Polo a fraud? This reader disagrees. While some regard it as suspect that he traveled to Yuan Dynasty China and did not mention the largely Han practice of foot binding, one needs to remember that he was employed in the court of Kubilai Khan, a Mongol Emperor who headed a very multicultural court. While this reader is not a first class scholar of medieval China, the narrative through which Marco Polo describes the China of then corresponds somewhat to the cultural mosaic of today. While in the Southwest of China, he describes people of rather relaxed sexual practices, which have an eery similarity to the Naxi of Yunnan Province, he describes a religious mosaic that regularly alternates between either Christian, Muslim or, as he terms it, idolatory, he describes funerary practices, the choice of clothing, and dietary practices. Therefore, this reader rules favorably in the authenticity of Marco Polo’s account. The book in itself is mainly a travelogue, and describes everywhere from Armenia and the Caspian Sea region, China, India, the Middle East, and in the final chapter, Russia. Toward the end, the book becomes something of a commentary of the then current affairs, describing a conflict in what was then an area close to Russia’s frontier, and earlier parts of the book describe the conflict and intrigue in the court of the Great Khan. However, the book, for the most part, is a travelogue. The book is an immensely entertaining and readable account. With just simple relaxation and the right approach, one feels themselves there with Marco Polo, exploring unknown lands, and traveling a greater distance traveled by no man since the creation, in the words of the introduction. Marco Polo’s Travels, or to give it it’s actual title, Il Milione, is a timeless classic. A timeless work of inquiry and observation that is both intriguing and fascinating, and a pleasure for the soul.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stacia

    I feel like my reading of this book has taken as long as Polo's travels! (Mostly, though, it was because I got sidetracked by the extensive footnotes & subsequent internet research on various topics found in Polo's book.) Polo's tales are an eclectic mix of geography notes, merchant/business observations, descriptions of plants/animals/governments/cultural customs interspersed with strange & outrageous tales (many true) along with plenty of gossip & hearsay (plenty false). It's almost like a mix I feel like my reading of this book has taken as long as Polo's travels! (Mostly, though, it was because I got sidetracked by the extensive footnotes & subsequent internet research on various topics found in Polo's book.) Polo's tales are an eclectic mix of geography notes, merchant/business observations, descriptions of plants/animals/governments/cultural customs interspersed with strange & outrageous tales (many true) along with plenty of gossip & hearsay (plenty false). It's almost like a mix of a dry textbook, a National Geographic documentary, a royal edict, Twitter, & the National Enquirer stirred to create his unique story. The complete mish-mash of information & mix of the mundane with the extraordinary reminded me a bit of the structure & jumble of Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Even though some parts are repetitive or boring recitations of business/trading/government facts, there are a lot of gems & fantastic observations... enough to make me overlook the slower parts in favor of the rest of it. Five stars for Polo's sheer chutzpah in living his life large & telling about it so that, even today, we can still enjoy his amazing travels.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This is the narrative of one of the most famous explorers in history, describing his adventures in the Far East as a sort of emissary for the great Kublai Khan. In it he describes all of the strange cities and peoples he comes across in his years wandering through the exotic locales encompassed by the Khan’s extensive empire. I’m sure that when this narrative was first published, it would have been considered fascinating reading by the general public, as it describes places, peoples and things th This is the narrative of one of the most famous explorers in history, describing his adventures in the Far East as a sort of emissary for the great Kublai Khan. In it he describes all of the strange cities and peoples he comes across in his years wandering through the exotic locales encompassed by the Khan’s extensive empire. I’m sure that when this narrative was first published, it would have been considered fascinating reading by the general public, as it describes places, peoples and things that were vastly different from what the average person was familiar with. For those people, Asia may as well have been on another planet. Most of this narrative is broken down into sections, each focusing on a specific city, describing its notable geography and architecture, its imports and exports, and the people who live there and their customs. Since most of the cities were really not notable, and since they generally shared the culture of all of the other cities around them, this tends to get kind of repetitive after awhile. A lot of the descriptions read: “In the city of _______, the inhabitants are pagans and worship idols. They burn their dead. They have a diet of rice and millet. They are great producers of silk”, or something to that effect. Then the next city is described in exactly the same way. And the next one. And the next one. Occasionally there would be a comment thrown in like: “The women here are very beautiful” or “The country produces fine cattle”. Which is all well and good, as this served to create a record of places that had never been recorded before. However, it makes for some dry reading. What made it interesting for me were the little anecdotes thrown in about the exploits of this king or that king who waged this war and used this trick to make his enemies surrender, and so on and so forth. I think personally it would have been fascinating if the work had been more autobiographical, including more of Marco Polo’s personal exploits. Though the main gist of what he did is outlined, it doesn’t go into any details. I’m sure, given as much as he did in his life, they would have been really interesting reading. Ah well, I’m sure many proper historians have said the same thing to themselves. The veracity of this work has been questioned by some, who say that Marco Polo was a fake and never actually went to any of these places. There was a guy, I think around the same timeframe, who wrote a book and said he went places where people had dog’s heads and mouths in their stomachs (or something to that effect, I’m remembering this all very vaguely). It seems to me that if Marco Polo were going to just make something up, he would have made up something more creative than “The people worship idols, and burn their dead, and eat millet”. Not that I’m a professional historian, here, but that’s just a thought that crossed my mind. Anyway, I think it was a good book to read once, just to be able to say I did it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    I finally got around to reading this after enjoying the hell out of Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, which functioned as a pastiche of not just this but mediaeval travelogues in general. It's very insightful into various East Asian cultures and states of the 13th century, despite the inevitable misunderstanding that a 13th century Italian would have had about those societies. For example: I was surprised to find out that Mongolia had as big and important a minority of Eastern Orthodox Christia I finally got around to reading this after enjoying the hell out of Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, which functioned as a pastiche of not just this but mediaeval travelogues in general. It's very insightful into various East Asian cultures and states of the 13th century, despite the inevitable misunderstanding that a 13th century Italian would have had about those societies. For example: I was surprised to find out that Mongolia had as big and important a minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians back then. I also recognised some of the peoples Polo writes about as ancestors of modern day Burmese (the Mien) or Thai. (the Lokak) Interesting to see how much the same cultures have changed so much since then by comparing to their modern day national identities. The descriptions of the many different architectural styles and landscapes that Polo encounters are quite beautiful and absolutely breathtaking. Remember that this was written centuries before mass media existed, so Polo had likely not seen any equivalent of many of those back home in Italy, and would have to describe in detail how different they were to his readers back home. Then we have the internal political conflict and martial exploits of the different East Asian noble families described, many of which read like something straight out of a Conan the Barbarian story to the point I would not be surprised if Robert E. Howard had been reading Marco Polo's travels for inspiration. It's also noteworthy that when Marco Polo gets to India, it's clear the societies he encounters feel nowhere as alien to him as the ones he encountered in East Asia - perhaps because they descend from the same Proto-Indo-European cultural sphere as himself?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Interesting for both it's accuracies and inaccuracies and the insight provided on the medieval point of view of foreign cultures. Unfortunately, Polo tends to simplify nearly every culture he encounters into one very large pot. In example, he seems to be under the impression that all 'idolaters' (read non-christians, non-muslims, non-jews) all follow one giant pan-asian religion. These kind of assumptions make a lot of his observations nearly useless, revealing more about the author than the sub Interesting for both it's accuracies and inaccuracies and the insight provided on the medieval point of view of foreign cultures. Unfortunately, Polo tends to simplify nearly every culture he encounters into one very large pot. In example, he seems to be under the impression that all 'idolaters' (read non-christians, non-muslims, non-jews) all follow one giant pan-asian religion. These kind of assumptions make a lot of his observations nearly useless, revealing more about the author than the subject. Add to that the fact that a great deal of the information is based on hearsay and presented as unvarnished truth while being demonstrably false. Polo's assertion of a Mongol victory over the Tran Dynasty in what would become Vietnam is a good example of an outright falsehood present as truth. Lastly, the writing style can be summarized as "This is what I'm going to tell you. This is what I'm telling you. This is what I just told you." Multiplied and repeated ad nauseam for every. single. subject. This combined with Polo's tendency to reuse entire passages applied to different subjects repeatedly makes for an often frustrating and uninteresting read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karolina Kat

    The Travels by Marco Polo are without question one of the most important texts of our culture. The text reveals not only how little the 13th century man knew about the world outside his own domain but also how he perceived the world around him. In Polo's work reality mixes with the perception of magical and unknown. All in all, a very enriching reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Thomas

    Marco Polo described many different places in the east. The book went into great detail about these places and the people who lived there. The countries of the east had a lot of materials and animals. There were also large cities along with their laws that were described. The book describes the East in the 1500’s and is an accurate account of what Marco Polo. I enjoyed most of the book. I recommend you read it if you like books that go into great detail about countries and their laws.

  17. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    This novel is among the 501 MUST READ BOOKS and it was written in 1298. So, next to the Holy Bible this is now the 2nd most oldest book that I've ever read. In fact, in the travel book that I read last month about the travels of Ferdinand Magellan, this book was mentioned several times as the Magellan fleet brought this book. It was the same case for Christopher Columbus because both the world navigators came after the travels of Marco Polo, his father Nicolo and his uncle Maffeo that happened i This novel is among the 501 MUST READ BOOKS and it was written in 1298. So, next to the Holy Bible this is now the 2nd most oldest book that I've ever read. In fact, in the travel book that I read last month about the travels of Ferdinand Magellan, this book was mentioned several times as the Magellan fleet brought this book. It was the same case for Christopher Columbus because both the world navigators came after the travels of Marco Polo, his father Nicolo and his uncle Maffeo that happened in 1271 to 1295. There are so many fascinating facts in this book. Prior to this, what I knew about Marco Polo was that he should be a chinese man (not a Venetian) because Marco Polo is a name of a chinese restaurant that used to be popular here in the Philippines in the 70s or 80s. All I knew about Genghis and Kublai Khan was that they are Chinese conquerors and they look so barbaric. This book gave me a better picture on rich they were, how big was their kingdoms (almost half of the earth!) and how many wives each of them had (more than a thousand)! 500 years have passed since the first publication of this book and they are still as fascinating as probably how Magellan and Columbus felt reading them for the first time. I am glad to have read this book and knew about the people and places then compared to how they are now. For one, Japan use be called Zipangu. During Marco Polo's visit the Japanese were cannibals! No wonder, they were still barbaric during the WWII....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    MARCO? ... ... ... POLO! If I never watched the Netflix show, I'd probably have little interest in this book. While this book is interesting, it's boring. With that said I found the background history more entertaining. I suggest you find a biography or a history book on this topic first. I made that mistake. Or read the introduction. It's important to know that while Marco Polo get's full credit for this, it's pretty obvious he didn't fully write this all. The best part of this and maybe the reason to MARCO? ... ... ... POLO! If I never watched the Netflix show, I'd probably have little interest in this book. While this book is interesting, it's boring. With that said I found the background history more entertaining. I suggest you find a biography or a history book on this topic first. I made that mistake. Or read the introduction. It's important to know that while Marco Polo get's full credit for this, it's pretty obvious he didn't fully write this all. The best part of this and maybe the reason to read this book is when he starts talking about the Khans. It's interesting they didn't seem to mind Polo and Polo seemed to admire them and respect them. Unlike other explorers, all he was doing was observing and trading. He wasn't looking to convert, kill, or conquer people. However, I need to read more about Polo, because this is my impression after reading only this book. Basically, yes this is a classic and yes this inspired others, but in my option it's not worth reading unless you are interested. Now to find other books about Marco Polo and the Khans.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    For a reading challenge I had to read the book that has been on my to-read list the longest. When I pulled up my Goodreads, lo and behold there was "The Travels." I was a bit wary of it, but I know I added this when I read The Muqaddimah which I very much enjoyed. When I first started this book I was a bit nervous as it is written a bit dry and straightforward. Soon though, the thought of stepping into all these different cultures in the 13th century really fascinated me. I found myself digging For a reading challenge I had to read the book that has been on my to-read list the longest. When I pulled up my Goodreads, lo and behold there was "The Travels." I was a bit wary of it, but I know I added this when I read The Muqaddimah which I very much enjoyed. When I first started this book I was a bit nervous as it is written a bit dry and straightforward. Soon though, the thought of stepping into all these different cultures in the 13th century really fascinated me. I found myself digging more into these cultures (as well as the veracity of Polo's claims). 2018 Reading Women Challenge - The book that has been on your TBR the longest

  20. 4 out of 5

    Individualfrog

    I'm not sure what caused me to credit the Goodreads reviews of this book which say it is boring and procrastinate on reading this after my brother gave it to me for my birthday last year. I generally make it a rule not to read reviews before reading a book at all, and experience has taught me that most peoples' opinions of Famous Classic Books, especially if they are older than say Jane Austen, rarely match my own. But I did credit them, and sort of anticipated this would be a chore, especially I'm not sure what caused me to credit the Goodreads reviews of this book which say it is boring and procrastinate on reading this after my brother gave it to me for my birthday last year. I generally make it a rule not to read reviews before reading a book at all, and experience has taught me that most peoples' opinions of Famous Classic Books, especially if they are older than say Jane Austen, rarely match my own. But I did credit them, and sort of anticipated this would be a chore, especially as the preface hinted in the same direction as the reviews. It's true that some medieval books I've read have tended that way, like the long flat lists of tediously fantastic, stereotyped tales that are most hagiography. I was all too ready to expect the same, after reading long pages of "it's so boring and repetitive, mindless merchant cataloguing!" here. But really I found it pretty interesting and fun. The chapters are short, the structure of the book quite intelligent and intuitive, the descriptions not really very repetitive at all, and there is almost nothing fantastic in it at all. If Marco Polo did not travel anywhere, as some allege, his sources were very good. He writes, for example, a description of shamanic healing in Siberia, which seems quite accurate as far as my knowledge of the topic goes, and which surely he had no way to anticipate or imagine in Europe. His stories of things like paper money, burning black stones instead of wood, places so far south that the north star is invisible or so high up that fire burns only fitfully, his descriptions of giant Buddha statues and teeming Chinese cities, might well have seemed incredible to his contemporary audience, but of course they don't strike us that way today. For the most part, he seems to have known quite a lot about Asia, and his descriptions of it seem basically straightforward and interesting. He even throws in plenty of money and sex to entertain the reader. He was always ready to talk about how cheap this or that commodity is, how much income Kubilai Khan extracts; and about how this or that ruler has a harem full of every attractive woman in his kingdom, or even more salaciously, about regions where there are no (or anyway different) sexual taboos. I like the brief ethnographic details, as when describing the people of "Tanguth" (the proper names are generally quite strange and I can only trust the endnotes when they explain what the real place is which is being described): "The inhabitants are worshippers of idols, and have their peculiar language. They subsit on the fruits of the earth, which they possess in abundance, and are enabled to supply the wants of travellers. The men are addicted to pleasure, and attend to little else than playing upon instruments, singing, dancing, reading, writing, according to the practice of the country, and the pursuit, in short, of every kind of amusement." (These are clearly my people.) I like the chapter titles: "Of the Province of Carchan, the Inhabitants of Which are Troubled with Swollen Legs and with Goiters", etc. I like the page headings: "EXCELLENT RHUBARB IN SUCCUIR", "HOUSEGUESTS MURDERED AT NIGHT", "THE LEAF INDIANS LIKE TO CHEW". It was a fun read. What it was not was an adventure, or even a travel book exactly. The trip is not really described. Rather, the places along the way. The common name for the book in French, according to the afterword, is The Description of the World, and I think that is a better title than The Travels (although the best is the Italian name of Il Milione). If you come to it with that expectation, you will probably be disappointed. Yet towards the end of reading it I tried listening to the old radio serial loosely based on it, which I had heard an episode or two of before. This dramatizes the story, so that, for example, Marco Polo himself faces the evil "Old Man of the Mountain", aka Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the leader of the notorious Nizari Ismailis known to us as the Assassins (who in fact had been destroyed by the Mongols long before the Polos' journey). Written in cod-archaic midcentury Classico sort of dialogue ("Have courage, Marco! Mayhap it is not the will of this prince that we should die!"), it is much more boring than the real deal, with its cities producing immense revenues of salt and incense, the people of whom consist of idolators, Nestorian Christians, and followers of Mohamet, and pays tribute to the great khan, though it is not part of his dominion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Anderson

    I'm not going to rate this because it seems odd to rate something written so long ago. Plus, I didn't finish it. I'l just say this: this is a boring and repetitive book. There are moments now and then that are interesting, but mostly it consists of short descriptions of the various places that Marco Polo visited. They all go like this: The kingdom of [name] are [christians/idolaters], who like to eat [type of food]. They use [type of money] and are ruled by the great khan. So basically it's mostl I'm not going to rate this because it seems odd to rate something written so long ago. Plus, I didn't finish it. I'l just say this: this is a boring and repetitive book. There are moments now and then that are interesting, but mostly it consists of short descriptions of the various places that Marco Polo visited. They all go like this: The kingdom of [name] are [christians/idolaters], who like to eat [type of food]. They use [type of money] and are ruled by the great khan. So basically it's mostly exactly the sort of information you would expect from a merchant travelling to unknown lands.

  22. 5 out of 5

    dbd

    Very interesting historical account of Polo's travels to Mongolia and China, He spent much more time there than I had known, not all of it by design. He was highly regarded by Kublai Kahn for his knowledge of western culture which was of great interest to the Kahn. Polo was surprised, as was I, by the sophistication of the Mongolian culture.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mariel

    This book was a lot better than I was expecting. It's not definitely a one-sitting-read because it can be a little repetitive, But I didn´t hate it. Este libro fue mejor de lo que me esperaba. No es definitivamente un libro para leer en una sentada poruqe puede tornarse un poco repetitivo. No lo odié, de todas formas

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gordan Karlic

    Imagine reading this book in 14 century, Europe is filled with plague, sickness, death and here Marco Polo is describing worlds filled with riches and life. I can only imagine how many people thought Marco Polo was lying (sure he exaggerated and not everything he said was true). It must have been an amazing journey.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarahandus

    I didn't find the Travels very exciting, but it was interesting how Marco Polo saw things - as interpreted by various editors through the years. Now I know what is meant when the Travels is referenced or mentioned.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I have no idea why I had rated this one so low when I first marked it as read here, and I deeply regret it. The prologue is a small account of what will be seen next. Prisoner to the Genovese, Venetian traveler Marco Polo tells his adventures to someone who can write them for him. This book, with reason, inspired others such as Christopher Columbus and sparked controversy, some people doubted of its veracity. His account of the Middle East is especially interesting, he describes plants, animals, I have no idea why I had rated this one so low when I first marked it as read here, and I deeply regret it. The prologue is a small account of what will be seen next. Prisoner to the Genovese, Venetian traveler Marco Polo tells his adventures to someone who can write them for him. This book, with reason, inspired others such as Christopher Columbus and sparked controversy, some people doubted of its veracity. His account of the Middle East is especially interesting, he describes plants, animals, customs and when he gets to the presence of Christians, there are very interesting episodes, here's a sample: -Iran for he brings to the table an ancient tradition concerning the Magi, in which they alternatively saw the Child Jesus as of their own age, but only could see Him as a baby when they all entered together. At the same time, His receiving of the three gifts, revealed to them his Godly, Kingly and Healer nature. They were given a talisman whose meaning they couldn't decipher, so they threw it to a well and from there, a never ending, sacred fire, was always employed for ritual purposes by the adorators of the fire who carried this tradition until today (Book 1, chapters 13 and 14) . -Samarcan, a miracle involving persecuted Christians resisting to the Great Khan's nephew desire to give back the first stone of the temple of St. John the Baptist to the Muslims where a column remains suspended in the air as if the stone had never been taken. (Book 1, chapter 34) -The tomb of St. Thomas, Apostle, in India, according to Marco Polo, venerated by both Christians and Muslims, who take him as someone of his own religion. Miraculous and medicinal effects are attributed to the ground. St. Thomas is reported to have appeared to cease the oppresion of a landlord. Also, to have died at the hands of a hunter. Though the style can get a bit repetitive in short city descriptions, the featuring of astrology, magic, the story of Genghis Khan whose military fate is predicted in a quasi Biblical manner, and his descendants, along with the religion and customs of this kingdom make up for it. Clearly, the monasticism of some Hindu sects fascinated them as much as the riches they sought to found. They also believe that by drinking mercury, such groups reach eternal life. Also, here you'll find the legend of Siddharta Gautama, as well. Muslims are inclined to believe the tomb is that of Adam, and Marco Polo does not confirm either version, especially backed on Scripture If you read this book, you'd think most of the Khan necessarily had friendly relationships with Christians and this is where narrative gets hardly believable. Many of the peoples subjugated to the Khan practiced various kinds of idolatry, polygamy, cannibalism there was an emperor cult, just like in Rome, and there were other practices (such as the mandatory loss of virginity for women before marrying in Tibet, which soon turned into prostitution, of course) that the expansion of Christianity would've questioned and banned. The most I could find was that the Khan at Marco Polo's time banned circumcission among Muslims. On the other hand, the story of Lop and the travelers getting lost in the desert by voices of the spirits that might lead them to a sure death also was very interesting (Book 1, chapter 39). the snakes with fore legs, (Book 2, chapter 49) probably could inspire a writer for a Gothic story, equal literary inspiration would have been provided by the story where men and women live in isles apart (Book, 3 chapter 31), or the hippogrif in Madagascar (Book 3, chapter 33). The description of giraffes in Book 3, chapter 34 is really endearing. The worry in describing the lands although very primitively compared to modern geography and biology shows wonder before a new world and is a constant in this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fariba

    This is a book you read once for its literary and historical merit and never again. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone new to medieval studies, but if you are a medievalist you should be familiar with its contents. More people should consider studying race in the Travels. It’s partially fact, partially myth, and a whole lot of Orientalism.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This is a book of which I cannot say, "I couldn't put it down!" Many of the 650-year-old accounts of Polo's travels through 13th century Asia were vividly described yet others were very matter-of-fact and well, dry for the most part. For example, most of the places he visited and subsequently dictated to his prison cell mate, Rusticiano, were described in this manner: "...its inhabitants, for the most part Mahometans, with some Nestorian Christians, and the rest idolaters are subjects of the gra This is a book of which I cannot say, "I couldn't put it down!" Many of the 650-year-old accounts of Polo's travels through 13th century Asia were vividly described yet others were very matter-of-fact and well, dry for the most part. For example, most of the places he visited and subsequently dictated to his prison cell mate, Rusticiano, were described in this manner: "...its inhabitants, for the most part Mahometans, with some Nestorian Christians, and the rest idolaters are subjects of the grand khan. Provisions are here in abundance, as is also cotton. The people are expert artisans. The support themselves by trade and manufactures, but they are not good soldiers. In this country there is not anything further that is worthy of observation." There are however some very interesting parts when he relates Kublai Khan's view of Christianity and other religions (the Saracens/Muslims; the Jews and the idolaters). Kublai Khan would have converted to Christianity (he regarded the faith of the Christians as the truest and the best) if the bishops could have performed "magic" like the idolators in his kingdom. Apparently the Pope at the time never sent out "qualified" persons to preach the gospel to the grand khan. In Polo's opinion, he would have converted had he heard. Other interesting social, political, economic customs, traditions, road systems, the grand khan's treatment of the poor, stories of cannibalism, fantastical animals, the religion of the Tartars, cities of great wealth and mention of historical characters make the book enjoyable and worth reading. Hard to imagine Polo could recall his travels in such detail with the sheer amount of miles he covered in his life (maybe he was journaling as he went). It is said that some of his accounts are exaggerated. I would not doubt that. Odd that he didn't mention the Great Wall of China. But, he was a merchant so maybe that did not interest him. The book ends very abruptly...he is describing a battle... "fully sixty thousand men were slain in this battle, but king Toctai, as well as the two sons of Tolobuga, escaped." And that's it. No thoughts to wrap it up. I gave it 4 stars because I love the fact that Marco Polo was a traveler and adventurer and am grateful he was willing to have someone record what he saw so others could benefit. He dared to venture where other men would not go and explore the unknown. The record of his experiences are illuminating and help us to see how others lived so long ago. Makes me appreciate the time and place in which I was born.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Not the easiest to read. An interesting book to do with a class as it brings out some of the less dry parts. Also, promotes an interest in the time period and Marco Polo and exploring what is actually true in his tale.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hsiao Ming

    After watching the Netflix show 'Marco Polo', I gained a newfound interest in the history of the Mongol empire and thought reading this book would be a great start. I must start off with a warning. If you expect a more streamlined story of Marco Polo's journey, then you'll be gravely disappointed. Of course I never expected this travel journal to be a consecutive story with twists and turns like in a television show, but I also did not expect it to be so repetitive and, dare I say, at times bori After watching the Netflix show 'Marco Polo', I gained a newfound interest in the history of the Mongol empire and thought reading this book would be a great start. I must start off with a warning. If you expect a more streamlined story of Marco Polo's journey, then you'll be gravely disappointed. Of course I never expected this travel journal to be a consecutive story with twists and turns like in a television show, but I also did not expect it to be so repetitive and, dare I say, at times boring? There were a lot of little stories about the different cultures Marco Polo encountered, and these were really interesting and often quite fun to read. However, he often had the tendency to go into detail for every little village he came across and only told the same information multiple times. It almost became hilarious in my opinion. Despite this (in my eyes) glaring obstacle, I quite enjoyed the book. Some things he told were so fantastical that it seemed more like a fairy tale but it still offers you more insight into the lives of the people in that time period, which was the main reason for reading this book. It remains interesting to see how all these cultures experienced through the eyes of someone whose own upbringing was so removed from this part of the world.

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