Online Encyclopedia

MARCO POLO (c. 1254-1324)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 11 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
MARCO POLO (c. 1254-1324), the Venetian, greatest of medieval travellers. Venetian genealogies and traditions of uncertain value trace the Polo family to Sebenico in Dalmatia, and before the end of the 11th century one Domenico Polo is found in the great council of the republic (1094). But the ascertained line of the traveller begins only with his grandfather. Andrea Polo of S. Felice was the father of three sons, Marco, Nicolo and Maffeo, of whom the second was the father of the subject of this article. They were presumably " noble," i.e. belonging to the families who had seats in the great council, and were enrolled in the Libro d' Oro; for we know that Marco the traveller is officially so styled (nobilis vir). The three brothers were engaged in commerce; the elder Marco, resident apparently in Constantinople and in the Crimea. (especially at Sudak), suggests, by his celebrated will, a long business partnership with Nicolo and Maffeo. About 126o, and even perhaps as early as 1250, we find Nicolo and Maffeo at Constantinople. Nicole was married and had left his wife there. The two brothers went on a speculation to the Crimea, whence a succession of chances and openings carried them to the court of Barka Khan at Sarai, further north up to Bolghar (Kazan), and eventually across the steppes to Bokhara. Here they fell in with certain envoys who had been on a mission from the great Khan Kublai to his brother Hulagu in Persia, and by them were persuaded to make the journey to Cathay in their company. Under the heading CHINA the circumstances are noticed which in the last half of the 13th century and first half of the 14th threw Asia open to Western travellers to a degree unknown before and since—until the 19th century. Thus began the medieval period of intercourse between China and catholic Europe. Kublai, when the Polos reached his court, was either at Cambaluc (Khanbaligh, the Khan's city), i.e. Peking, which he had just rebuilt, or at his summer seat at Shangtu in the country north of the Great Wall. It was the first time that the khan, a man full of energy and intelligence, had fallen in with European gentlemen. He was delighted with the Venetian brothers, listened eagerly to all they had to tell of the Latin world, and decided to send them back as his envoys to the pope, with letters requesting the despatch of a large body of educated men to instruct his people in Christianity and the liberal arts. With Kublai, as with his predecessors, religion was chiefly a political engine. Kublai, the first of his house to rise above the essential barbarism of the Mongols, had perhaps discerned that the Christian Church could afford the aid he desired in taming his countrymen. It was only when Rome had failed to meet his advance that he fell back upon Buddhism as his chief civilizing instrument. The brothers arrived at Acre in April 1269. They learned that Clement IV. had died the year before, and no new pope had yet been chosen. So they took counsel with an eminent church-man, Tedaldo, archdeacon of Liege and papal legate for the whole realm of Egypt, and, being advised by him to wait patiently, went home to Venice, where they found that Nicolo's wife was dead, but had left a son Marco, now fifteen. The papal interregnum was the longest that had been known, at least since the dark ages. After the Polos had spent two years at home there was still no pope, and the brothers resolved on starting again for the East, taking young Marco with them. At Acre they again saw Tedaldo, and were furnished by him with letters to authenticate the causes that had hindered their mission. They had not yet left Lajazzo, Layas, or Ayas on the Cilician coast (then one of the chief points for the arrival and departure of the land trade of Asia), when they heard that Tedaldo had been elected pope. They hastened back to Acre, and at last were able to execute Kublai's mission, and to obtain a papal reply. But, instead of the hundred teachers asked for by the Great Khan, the new pope (styled Gregory X.) could supply but two Dominicans; and these lost heart and turned back, when they had barely taken the first step of their journey. The second start from Acre must have taken place about November 1271; and from a consideration of the indications and succession of chapters in Polo's book, it would seem that the party proceeded from Lajazzo to Sivas and Tabriz, and thence by Yezd and Kirman down to Hormuz (Hurmua) at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, with the purpose of going on to China by sea; but that, abandoning their naval plans (perhaps from fear of the flimsy vessels employed on this navigation from the Gulf east-wards), they returned northward through Persia. Traversing Kirman and Khorasan they went on to Balkh and Badakshan, in which last country young Marco recovered from illness. In a passage touching on the climate of the Badakshan hills, Marco breaks into an enthusiasm whiqh he rarely betrays, but which is easily understood by those who have known what it is, with fever in the blood, to escape to the exhilarating mountain air and fragrant pine-groves. They then ascended the upper Oxus through Wakhan to the plateau of Pamir (a name first heard in Marco's book). These regions were hardly described again by any European traveller (save Benedict Goes) till the expedition in 1838 of Lieut. John Wood of the Indian navy, whose narrative abounds in incidental illustration of Marco Polo. Crossing the Pamir the travellers descended upon Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan (Khutan). These are regions which remained almost absolutely closed to our know-ledge till after 186o, when the temporary overthrow of the Chinese power, and the enterprise of British, Russian and other explorers, again made them known. From Khotan the Polos passed on to the vicinity of Lop-Nor, reached for the first time since Polo's journey by Prjevalsky in 1871. Thence the great desert of Gobi was crossed to Tangut, as the region at the extreme north-west of China, both within and without the Wall, was then called. In his account of the Gobi, or desert of Lop, as he calls it, Polo gives some description of the terrors and superstitions of the waste, a description which strikingly reproduces that of the Chinese pilgrim Suan T'sang, in passing the same desert in the contrary direction six hundred years before. The Venetians, in their further journey, were met and welcomed by the Great Khan's people, and at last reached his presence at Shangtu, in the spring of 1275. Kublai received them with great cordiality, and took kindly to young Marco, by this time about twenty-one years old. The " young bachelor," as the book calls him, applied himself diligently to the acquisition of the divers languages and written characters chiefly in use among the multifarious nationalities subject to the Khan; and Kublai, seeing .that he was both clever and discreet, soon began to employ him in the public service. G. Pauthier found in the Chinese annals a record that in the year 1277 a certain Polo was nominated as a second-class commissioner or agent attached to the imperial council, a passage which we may apply to the young Venetian. Among his public missions was one which carried him through the provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Szechuen, and the wild country on the borders of Tibet, to the remote province of Yunnan, called by the Mongols Karajang,and into northern Burma (Mien). Marco, during his stay at court, had observed the Khan's delight in hearing of strange countries, of their manners, marvels, and oddities, and had heard his frank expressions of disgust at the stupidity of envoys and commissioners who could tell of nothing but their official business. He took care to store his memory or his note-book with curious facts likely to interest Kublai, which, on his return to court, he related. This south-western journey led him through a country which till about 186o was almost a terra incognita—though since the middle of the 19th century we have learned much regarding it through the journeys of Cooper, Garnier, Richthofen, Gill, Baber and others. In this region there existed and still exists in the deep valleys of the great rivers, and in the alpine regions which border them, a vast ethnological garden, as it were, of tribes of various origin, and in every stage of semi-civilization or barbarism; these afforded many strange products and eccentric traits to entertain Kublai. Marco rose rapidly in favour and was often employed on distant missions as well as in domestic administration; but we gather few details of his employment. He held for three years the government of the great city of Yangchow; on another occasion he seems to have visited Kangchow, the capital of Tangut, just within the Great Wall, and perhaps Karakorum on the north of the Gobi, the former residence of the Great Khans: again we find him in Ciampa, or southern Cochin-China; and perhaps, once more, on a separate mission to the southern states of India. We are not informed whether his father and uncle shared in such employments, though they are mentioned as having rendered material service to the Khan, in forwarding the capture of Siang-yang (on the Han river) during the war against southern China, by the construction of powerful artillery engines—a story, however, perplexed by chronological difficulties. All the Polos were gathering wealth which they longed to carry back to their home, and after their exile they began to dread what might follow Kublai's death. The Khan, however, was deaf to suggestions of departure and the opportunity only came by chance. Arghun, khan of Persia, the grandson of Kublai's brother. Hulagu, lost in 1286 his favourite wife, called by Polo Balgana (i.e. Bulughan or " Sable "). Her dying injunction was that her place should be filled only by a lady of her own Mongol tribe. Ambassadors were despatched to the court of Peking to obtain such a bride. The message was courteously received, and the choice fell on the lady Cocacin (Kukachin), a maiden of seventeen. The overland road from Peking to Tabriz was then imperilled by war, so Arghun's envoys proposed to return by sea. Having made acquaintance with the Venetians, and eager to profit by their experience, especially by that of Marco, who had just. returned from a mission to the Indies, they begged the Khan to send the Franks in their company. He consented with reluctance, but fitted out the party nobly for the voyage, charging them with friendly messages to the potentates of Christendom, including the pope, and the kings of France, Spain and England. They sailed from Zaiton or Amoy Harbour in Fukien (a town corresponding either to the modern Changchow or less probably to Tswanchow or Chinchew), then one of the chief Chinese havens for foreign trade, in the beginning of 1292. The voyage involved long detention on the coast of Sumatra, and in south India, and two years or more passed before they arrived in Persia. Two of the three envoys and a vast proportion of their suite perished by the way; but the three Venetians survived all perils, and so did the young lady, who had come to look on them with filial regard. Arghun Khan had died even before they quitted China; his brother reigned in his stead; and his son Ghazan succeeded to the lady's hand. The Polos went on (apparently by Tabriz, Trebizond, Constantinople and Negropont) to Venice, which they seem to have reached about the end of 1295. The first biographer of Marco Polo was the famous geographical collector John Baptist Ramusio, who wrote more than two centuries after the traveller's death. Facts and dates sometimes contradict his statements, but he often adds detail, evidently authentic, of great interest and value, and we need not hesitate to accept as a genuine tradition the substance of his story of the Polos' arrival at their family mansion in St John Chrysostom parish in worn and outlandish garb, of the scornful denial of their identity, and the stratagem by which they secured acknowledgment from Venetian society. We next hear of Marco Polo in a militant capacity. Jealousies had been growing in bitterness between Venice and Genoa throughout the 13th century. In 1298 the Genoese prepared to strike at their rivals on their own ground, and a powerful fleet under Lamba Doria made for the Adriatic. Venice, on hearing of the Genoese armament, equipped a fleet still more numerous, and placed it under Andrea Dandolo. The crew of a Venetian galley at this time amounted, all told, to 250 men, under a comilo or master, but besides this officer each galley carried a sopracomito or gentleman-commander, usually a noble. On one of the galleys of Dandolo's fleet Marco Polo seems to have gone in this last capacity. The hostile fleets met before Curzola Island on the 6th of September, and engaged next morning. The battle ended in a complete victory for Genoa, the details of which may still be read on the facade of St Matthew's church in that city. Sixty-six Venetian galleys were burnt in Curzola Bay, and eighteen were carried to Genoa, with 7000 prisoners, one of whom was Marco Polo. The captivity was of less than a year's duration; by the mediation of Milan peace was made, on honourable terms for both republics, by July 1299; and Marco was probably restored to his family during that or the following month. But his captivity was memorable as the immediate cause of his Book. Up to this time he had doubtless often related his experiences among his friends; and from these stories, and the frequent employment in them (as it would seem) of grand numerical expressions, he had acquired the nickname of Marco Millioni. Yet it would seem that he had committed nothing to writing. The narratives not only of Marco Polo but of several other famous medieval travellers (e.g. Ibn Batuta, Friar Odoric, Nicolo Conti) seem to have been extorted from them by a kind of pressure, and committed to paper by other hands. Examples, perhaps, of that intense dislike to the use of pen and ink which still prevails among ordinary respectable folk on the shores of the Mediterranean. In the prison of Genoa Marco Polo fell in with a certain person of writing propensities, Rusticiano or Rustichello of Pisa, also a captive of the Genoese. His name is otherwise known as that of a respectable literary hack, who abridged and recast several of the French romances of the Arthurian cycle, then in fashion. He wrote down Marco's experiences at his dictation. We learn little of Marco Polo's personal or family history after this captivity; but we know that at his death he left a wife, Donata (perhaps of the Loredano family, but this is uncertain), and three daughters, Fantina and Bellela (married, the former to Marco Bragadino), and Moreta (then a spinster, but married at a later date to Ranuzzo Dolfino). One last glimpse of the traveller is gathered from his will, now in St Mark's library. On the 9th of January 1324 the traveller, in his seventieth year, sent for a neighbouring priest and notary to make his testament. We do not know the exact time of his death, but it fell almost certainly within the year 1324, for we know from a scanty series of documents, beginning in June 1325, that he had at the latter date been some time dead. He was buried, in accordance with his will, in the Church of St Lorenzo, where the family burying-place was marked by a sarcophagus, erected by his filial care for his father Nicolo, which existed till near the end of the 16th century. On the renewal of the church in 1592 this seems to have disappeared. The archives of Venice have yielded a few traces of our traveller. Besides his own will just alluded to, there are the wills of his uncle Marco and of his younger brother Maffeo; a few legal documents connected with the house property in St John Chrysostom, and other papers of similar character; andtwo or three entries in the record of the Maggior Consiglio. We have mentioned the sobriquet of Marco Millioni. Ramusio tells us that he had himself noted the use of this name in the public books of the commonwealth, and this statement has been verified in an entry in the books of the Great Council (dated April ro, 1305), which records as one of the securities in a certain case .the "Nobilis vir Marchus Paulo MILtoN." It is alleged that long after the traveller's death there was always in the Venetian masques one individual who assumed the character of Marco Millioni, and told Munchausen-like stories to divert the vulgar. There is also a record (March 9, 1311) of the judgment of the court of requests (Curia Petitionum) upon a suit brought by the " Nobilis vir Marcus Polo " against Paulo Girardo, who had been an agent of his, to recover the value of a certain quantity of musk for which Girardo had not accounted. Another document is a catalogue of certain curiosities and valuables which were collected in the house of Marino Faliero, and this catalogue comprises several objects that Marco Polo had given to one of the Faliero family. The most tangible record of Polo's memory in Venice is a portion of the Ca' Polo—the mansion (there is reason to believe) where the three travellers, after their long absence, were denied entrance. The court in which it stands was known in Ramusio's time as the Corte del millioni, and now is called Corte Sabbionera. That which remains of the ancient edifice is a passage with a decorated archway of Italo-Byzantine character pertaining to the 13th century. No genuine portrait of Marco Polo exists. There is a medallion portrait on the wall of the Sala dello Scudo in the ducal palace, which has become a kind of type; but it is a work of imagination no older than 1761. The oldest professed portrait is one in the gallery of Monsignor Badia at Rome, which is inscribed Marcus Polus venetus totius orbis et Indie peregrator primus. It is a good picture, but evidently of the 16th century at earliest. The Europeans at Canton have absurdly attached the name of Marco Polo to a figure in a Buddhist temple there containing a gallery of " Arhans " or Buddhist saints, and popularly known as the " temple of the five hundred gods." The Venetian municipality obtained a copy of this on the occasion of the geographical congress at Venice in 1881. The book indited by Rusticiano is in two parts. The first, or prologue, as it is termed, is unfortunately the only part which consists of actual personal narrative. It relates in an interesting though extremely brief fashion the circumstances which led the two elder Polos to the Khan's court, together with those of their second journey (when accompanied by Marco), and of the return to the west by the Indian seas and Persia. The second and staple part consists of a series of chapters of unequal length and unsystematic structure, descriptive of the different states and provinces of Asia (certain African islands and regions included), with occasional notices of their sights and products, of curious manners and remarkable events, and especially regarding the Emperor Kublai, his court, wars and administration. A series of chapters near the close treats of sundry wars that took place between various branches of 'the house of Jenghiz in the latter half of the 13th century. This last series is either omitted or greatly curtailed in all the MS. copies and versions except one (Paris, National Library, Fonds Fr. 1116). It was long doubtful in what language the work was originally written. That this had been some dialect of Italian was a natural presumption, and a contemporary statement could be alleged in its favour. But there is now no doubt that the original was French. This was first indicated by Count Baldelli-Boni, who published an elaborate edition of two of the Italian texts at Florence in 1827, and who found in the oldest of these indisputable signs that it was a translation from the French. The argument has since been followed up by others; and a manuscript in rude and peculiar French, belonging to the National Library of Paris (Fonds Fr. u16), which was printed by the Societe de geographie in 1824, is evidently either the original or a close transcript of the original dictation. A variety of its characteristics are strikingly indicative of the unrevised product of dictation, and are such as would necessarily have disappeared either in a translation or in a revised copy. Many illustrations could be adduced of the fact that the use of French was not a circumstance of surprising or unusual nature; for the language had at that time, in some points of view, even a wider diffusion than at present, and examples of its literary employment by writers who were not Frenchmen (like Rusticiano himself, a compiler of French romances) are very numerous. Eighty-five MSS. of the book are known, and their texts exhibit editions of " Mandeville," with his lying wonders, indicates a much considerable differences. These fall under four principal types. Of these, type i. is found completely only in that old French codex which has been mentioned (Paris, National Library, Fr. 1116). Type ii. is shown by several valuable MSS. in purer French (Paris, Nat. Libr., Fr. 281o; Fr. 5631; Fr. 5649; Bern, Canton Library, 125), which formed the basis of the edition prepared by the late M. Pauthier in 1865. It exhibits a text condensed and revised from the rude original, but without any exactness, though perhaps under some general direction by Marco Polo himself, for an inscription prefixed to certain MSS. (Bern, Canton Libr. 125; Paris, Nat. Libr., Fr. 5649) records the presentation of a copy by the traveller himself to the Seigneur Thiebault de Cepoy, a distinguished Frenchman known to history, at Venice in the year 1306. Type iii. is that of a Latin version prepared in Marco Polo's lifetime, though without any sign of his cognisance, by Francesco Pipino, a Dominican of Bologna, and translated from an Italian copy. In this, condensation and curtailment are carried a good deal further than in type ii. Some of the forms under which this type appears curiously illustrate the effects of absence of effective publication, not only before the invention of the press, but in its early days. Thus the Latin version published by Grynaeus at Basel in the Nevus Orbis (1532) is different in its language from Pipino's, and yet is clearly traceable to that as its foundation. In fact it is a retranslation into Latin from some version of Pipino (Marsden thinks the Portuguese printed one of 1502). It introduces changes of its own, and is worthless as a text; yet Andreas Muller, who in the 17th century took so much trouble with Polo, unfortunately chose as his text this fifth-hand version. The French editions published in the middle of the 16th century were translations from Grynaeus's Latin. Hence they complete this curious and vicious circle of transmission—French, Italian, Pipino's Latin, Portuguese, Grynaeus's Latin, French. Type iv. deviates largely from those already mentioned; its history and true character are involved in obscurity. It is only represented by the Italian version prepared for the press by John Baptist Ramusio, with interesting preliminary dissertations, and published at Venice two years after his death, in the second volume of the Navigationi a viaggi. Its peculiarities are great. Ramusio seems to imply that he made some use of Pipino's Latin, and various passages confirm this. But many new circumstances, and anecdotes occurring in no other copy, are introduced; many names assume a new shape; the whole style is more copious and literary than that of any other version. While a few of the changes and interpolations seem to carry us farther from the truth, others contain facts of Asiatic nature or history, as well as of Polo's alleged experiences, which it is difficult to ascribe to any hand but the traveller's own. We recognize to a certain extent tampering with the text, as in cases where Polo's proper names have been identified, and more modern forms substituted. In some other cases the editorial spirit has gone astray. Thus the age of young Marco has been altered to correspond with a date which is itself erroneous. Ormuz is described as an island, contrary to the old texts, and to the fact in Polo's time. In speaking of the oil-springs of Caucasus the phrase " camel-loads " has been substituted for " ship-loads," in ignorance that the site was Baku on the Caspian. But, on the other hand, there are a number of new circumstances certainly genuine. which can hardly be ascribed to any one but Polo himself. Such is the account which Ramusio's version gives of the oppressions exercised by Kublai's Mahommedan minister Ahmad, telling how the Cathayans rose against him and murdered him, with the addition that Messer Marco was on the spot when all this happened. Not only is the whole story in substantial accordance with the Chinese annals, even to the name of the chief conspirator (Vanchu in Ramusio, Wangcheu in the Chinese records), but the annals also tell of the frankness of " Polo, assessor of the privy council," in opening Kublai's eyes to the iniquities of his agent. Polo was the first traveller to trace a route across the whole longitude of Asia, naming and describing kingdom after kingdom which he had seen; the first to speak of the new and brilliant court which had been established at Peking; the first to reveal China in all its wealth and vastness, and to tell of the nations on its borders; the first to tell more of Tibet than its name, to speak of Burma, of Laos, of Siam, of Cochin-China, of Japan, of Java, of Sumatra and of other islands of the archipelago, of the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, of Ceylon and its sacred peak, of India but as a country seen and partially explored; the first in medieval times to give any distinct account of the secluded Christian Empire of Abyssinia, and of the semi-Christian island of Sokotra, and to speak, however dimly, of Zanzibar, and of the vast and distant Madagascar; whilst he carries us also to the remotely opposite region of Siberia and the Arctic shores, to speak of dog-sledges, white bears and reindeer-riding Tunguses. The diffusion of the book was hardly so rapid as has been some-times alleged. We know from Gilles Mallet's catalogue of the books collected in the Louvre by Charles V., dating c. 1370-1375, that five copies of Marco Polo's work were then in the collection; but on the other hand, the 202 known MSS. and the numerous early printed greater popularity. Dante, who lived twenty-three years after the book was dictated, and who touches so many things in the seen and unseen worlds, never alludes to Polo, nor, we believe, to any-thing that can be connected with him; nor can any trace of. Polo be discovered in the book of his contemporary, Marino Sanudo the Elder, though this worthy is well acquainted with the work, later by some years, of Hayton the Armenian, and though many of the subjects on which he writes in his own book (Secreta Fidelium Crucis') challenge a reference to Polo's experiences. " Mandeville " himself, who plundered right and left, hardly ever plunders Polo (see one example in Dawn of Modern Geography, in. 323, note). The only literary works we know of the 14th century which show acquaintance with Polo's book or achievements are Pipino's Chronicle, Villani's Florentine History, Pietro d'Abano's Conciliator, the Chronicle of John of Ypres, and the poetical romance of Baudouin de Sebourc, which last borrows themes largely from Polo. - Within the traveller's own lifetime we find the earliest examples of the practical and truly scientific coast-charts (Portolani), based upon the experience of pilots, mariners, merchants, &c. In two of the most famous of the 14th century Portolani, we trace Marco Polo's influence—first, very slightly in the Laurentian or Medicean Portolano of 1351 (at Florence), but afterwards with clearness and in remarkable detail in the Catalan Atlas of 1375 (now at Paris). Both of these represent a very advanced stage of medieval knowledge, a careful attempt to represent the known world on the basis of collected fact, and a disregard for theological or pseudo-scientific theory; in the Catalan Atlas, as regards Central and Further Asia, and partially as regards India, Marco Polo's Book is the basis of the map. His names are often much perverted, and it is not always easy to understand the view that the compiler took of his itineraries. Still we have Cathay placed in the true position of China, as a great empire filling the south-east of Asia. The trans-Gangetic peninsula is absent, but that of India proper is, for the first time in the history of geography, represented with a fair approximation to correct form and position. It is curious that, in the following age, owing partly to his unhappy reversion to the fancy of a circular disk, the map of Fra Mauro (1459), one of the greatest map-making enterprises in history, and the result of immense labour in the collection of facts and the endeavour to combine them, gives a much less accurate idea of Asia than the Carta catalana. Columbus possessed a printed copy of the Latin version of Polo's book made by Pipino, and on more than seventy pages of this there are manuscript notes in the admiral's handwriting, testifying, what is sufficiently evident from the whole history of the Columbian voyages, to the immense influence of the work of the Venetian merchant upon the discoverer of the new world. When, in the 16th century, attempts were made to combine new and old knowledge, the results were unhappy. The earliest of such combinations tried to realize Columbus's ideas regarding the identity of his discoveries with the Great Khan's dominions; but even after America had vindicated its independent existence, and the new knowledge of the Portuguese had named China where the Catalan map had spoken of Cathay, the latter country, with the whole of Polo's nomenclature, was shunted to the north, forming a separate system. Henceforward the influence of Polo's work on maps was simply injurious; and when to his names was added a sprinkling of Ptolemy's, as was usual throughout the 16th century, the result was a hotchpotch conveying no approximation to facts (see further MAP). As to the alleged introduction of important inventions into Europe by Polo—although the striking resemblance of early European block-books to those of China seems clearly to indicate the derivation of the art from that country, there is no reason for connecting this introduction (any more than that of gunpowder or the mariner's compass) with the name of Marco. In the 14th century not only were missions of the Roman Church established in some of the chief cities of eastern China, but a regular overland trade was carried on between Italy and China, by way of Tana (Azov), Astrakhan, Otrar, Kamul (Hami) and Kanchew. Many a traveller other than Marco Polo might have brought home the block-books, and some might have witnessed the process of making them. This is the less to be ascribed to Polo, because he so curiously omits to speak of the process of printing, when, in describing the block-printed paper-money of China, his subject seems absolutely to challenge a description of the art. See the Recueil of the Paris Geographical Society (1824), vol. i., giving the text of the fundamental MS. (Nat. Libr. Paris, Fr. 1116; see above), as well as that of the oldest Latin version ; G. Pauthier's edition, Livre . . . de Marco Polo . . . (Paris, 1865), based mainly upon the three Paris MSS. (Nat. Libr. Fr. 281o; Fr. 5631; Fr. 5649; see above) and accompanied by a commentary of great value; Baldelli-Boni's Italian edition, giving the oldest Italian version (Florence, 1827) ; Sir Henry Yule's edition, which in its final shape, as revised and augmented by Henri Cordier (. . . Marco Polo . . . London, 1903)', is the most complete 1 Printed by Bongars in the collection called Gesta Dei per Frances (161I), ii. I-281. storehouse of Polo learning in existence, embodying the labours goal-hitters and their scoring is higher. They defeated the English players in 1909 with ease. Polo was first played in England by the loth Hussars in 1869. The game spread rapidly and some good play was seen at Lillie Bridge. But the organization of polo in England dates from its adoption by the Hurlingham Club in 1873. The ground was boarded along the sides, and this device, which was employed as a remedy for the irregular shape of the Hurlingham ground has become almost universal and has greatly affected the development of the game. The club committee, i11 1874, drew up the first code of rules, which reduced the number of players to five a side and included offside. The next step was the foundation of the Champion Cup, in 1877. Then came the rule dividing the game into periods of ten minutes, with intervals of two minutes for changing ponies after each period, and five minutes at half-time. The height of ponies was fixed at 14.2, and a little later an official measurer was appointed, no pony being allowed to play unless registered at Hurlingham. The next change was the present scale of penalties for offside, foul riding or dangerous play. A short time after, the crooking of the adversary's stick, unless in the act of hitting the ball, was forbidden. The game grew faster, partly as the result of these rules. Then the ten minutes' rule was revised. The period did not close until the ball went over the boundary. Thus the period might be ex-tended to twelve or thirteen minutes, and although this time was deducted from the next period the strain of the extra minutes was too great on men and ponies. It was therefore laid down that the ball should go out of play on going out of bounds or striking the board, whichever happened first. In 1910 a polo handicap was established, based on the American system of estimating the number of goals a player was worth to his side. This was modified in the English handicap by assigning to each player a handicap number as at golf. The highest number is ten, the lowest one. The Hurlingham handicap is revised during the winter, again in May, June and July, each handicap coming into force one month after the date of issue. In tournaments under handicap the individual handicap numbers are added together, and the team with the higher aggregate concedes goals to that with the lower, according to the conditions of the tournament. The handicap serves to divide second from first class tournaments, for the former teams must not have an aggregate over 25. The size of the polo ground is 300 yds. in length and from 16o to 200 yds. in width. The larger size is only found now where boards are not used. The ball is made of willow root, is 3} in. in diameter, weight not over 5i oz. The polo stick has no standard size or weight, and square or cigar-shaped heads are used at the discretion of the player. On soft grounds, the former, on hard grounds the latter are the better, but Indian and American players nearly always prefer the cigar shape. The goal posts, now generally made of papier m5.che, are 8 yds. apart. This is the goal line. Thirty yards from the goal line a line is marked out, nearer than which to the goal no one of a fouled side may be when the side fouling has to hit out, as a penalty from behind the back line, which is the goal line produced. At 50 yds. from each goal there is generally a mark to guide the man who takes a free hit as a penalty. Penalties are awarded by the umpires, who should be two in number', well mounted, and with a good knowledge of the rules of the game. The Hurlingham and Ranelagh clubs appoint official umpires. There should also be a referee in case of disagreement between the umpires, and it is usual to have a man with a flag behind each goal to signal when a goal is scored. The Hurlingham club makes and revises the rules of the,game, and its code is, with some local modifications, in force in the United Kingdom, English-speaking colonies, the Argentine Republic, California, and throughout Europe. America and India are governed by their own polo associations. The American rules have no offside, and their penalties consist of subtracting a goal or the fraction of a goal, according to the offence, from the side which has incurred a penalty for fouling. The differences between the Hurlingham and Indian rules of all the best students of the subject, and giving the essence of such works as those of Major P. Molesworth Sykes (Ten Thousand Miles in Persia, &c.) so far as these touch Marco Polo; the Archimandrite Palladius Katharov's " Elucidations of Marco Polo " (from vol. x. of the Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (1876), pp. 1–54; F. von Richthofen, Letters to Shangai Chamber of Commerce; E. C. Baber, Travels . . in Western China; G. Phillips, Identity of . . . Zaitun with Changchau in T'oung Pao (Oct. 1890), and other studies in T'oung-Pao (Dec. 1895 and July 1896). There are in all lo French editions of Polo as well as 4 Latin editions, 27 Italian, 9 German, 4 Spanish, I Portuguese, 12 English, 2 Russian, 1 Dutch, I Bohemian (Chekh), I Danish and 1 Swedish. See also E. Bretschneider, Mediaeval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources, i. 239, 167; ii. 8, 71, 81–84, 184; Leon Cahun, Introduction a l'histoire de l'Asie, 339, 386; C. Raymond Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, iii. 15—160, 545-547, 554, 556-563. (H. Y.; C. R. B.)
End of Article: MARCO POLO (c. 1254-1324)
[back]
GASPAR GIL POLO (?153o-1591)
[next]
POLOGY

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.