The Polo travels as I see them. Only as far as the Black Sea indeed
Goddamn archeologists. They wreck everything.
Now they’ve gone and put the lie to a cherished childhood belief in human accomplishment and adventure.
One of my genuine joys in elementary school (believe me there were very few other aspects of formative schooling that brought me any pleasure at all) was learning about the early explorers. Those lessons gave me a lifelong love of history that certain had some influence in my being a history teacher way back there in another life.
Anyway, a teacher could enchant me no end with tales of Columbus (of course he is no longer PC, but screw that revisionist crud), and Vasco da Gama, and Cartier, and Cook, and especially that old Marco Polo.
I’d listen in class (a rarity for me, all too often) as the tales of derring-do and human sacrifice unfolded and I would ply the uncharted seas with the mariners, and would tramp the unbeaten tracks with the overland heroes. I’d pore over books and ponder the illustrations. My grandmother took me to see the movie Christopher Columbus with Frederick March playing the primo explorer and I found it to be the most wonderful piece of cinema to ever grace our neighborhood movie house.
Yet this morning I read an account of findings by a couple of Italian archaeologists who claim that Polo was nothing more than a big fat Venetian fraud. That he never did go to China and sit in the “stately pleasure dome” of Kublai Khan. He didn’t even bring pasta back to Italy. I suppose now they’re going to attest that he didn’t bring back fireworks or invent the Chinese take-out dinner.
This information gobsmacked me and made me wonder about their motivation. Who are these people? A couple of disgruntled Genoese who don’t want to see a Venetian get all the glory? Well, I could say to them, due to their shattering of this boy’s erstwhile beliefs, and would say to them in language they would understand: “Wassa matta fo’ you?” Their names, I have on good authority, are Dr. Vinnie Moscone, and Dr. Tony Ragusa, though I could be wrong about that. I didn’t read the article too closely, so incensed was I.
As the story goes Polo traversed the legendary Silk Road to Cathay sometime in the mid to later 1200s. The Silk Road had been known to western Europeans since Roman times and many merchants and the like had traversed it, but never all the way. Polo, according to widespread beliefs, did the whole shot. It took him 24 years, there and back and when he returned to Venice he told his tale and it was generally accepted at face-value.
But now these scoffers reject his claims, and maintain his accounts are filled with falsehoods that he had gleaned at writings from the time, especially Persian ones, and that the Persians were much more cognizant of China (geographically situated where it is)) than were western Europeans. Indeed, one suggestion is that Polo never actually ventured further than the Black Sea and all the rest of it is just so much self-hype.
But, you know, I’ll continue to live by my delusions. Delusions that also tell me that Pluto is a planet despite what some astronomical dweebs attest. Astronomers and archeologists, what killjoys. They have no poetry in their souls like the average 4th grader who sat enchanted as tales of Columbus and Polo unfolded.