Marco Polo, 1254-1324
A merchant from the Venetian Republic whose Travels (Il Milione) introduced Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, voyaged through Asia and met Kublai Khan. In 1269, they returned to Venice and were reunited with Marco. The three of them then embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years.
Il Milione was translated, embellished, copied by hand and adapted; there is no authoritative version. It documents his father's journey to meet the Kublai Khan, who asked them to become ambassadors, and communicate with the pope. This led to Marco's quest, through Acre, into China and to the Mongol court. Marco wrote of his extensive travels throughout Asia on behalf of the Khan, and their eventual return after 15,000 miles (24,140 km) and 24 years of adventures.