Marko Polo and Korcula by dr. Zivan Filippi
Marko Polo and the Venetian Government


Marko was released from the Genoese prison on August 28 1299, after the peace treaty between Venice and Genoa was signed in July that year. He was forty-five years old, which was an advanced age for that time, but further adventures lay in front of the energetic and enterprising Marko. He married in Venice for the first time a girl called Donata, who belonged to one of the most respected Venetian families, that of Badoer. He had three daughters by her: Belela, Fantina and Moreta. Approximately at the time of his marriage with Donata, his father Nikola died. He was real explorer of unknown regions who took Marko to the Far East and got him acquainted with Kublai Khan.

Marko continued his trade activities in Venice. He traded furs with Russia, flint and wool with England, and sometimes, like a modern tour operator, he organized pilgrimages by ships to the Holy Land. He was also selling Venetian mirrors. But how could a handful of merchant ships in a Venetian port compare with the forest of masts on the Yangtze river? Could the market in Venice attract him as much as did only one of ten luxurious market places in Kinsai?

As in an adventure novel, Marko Polo experiences a turning point in his life by revolting against the existing state of things. That very same trading and sea power, the Republic of Saint Marco, that had enabled him, by its tradition and expansion of influence to distant countries, afforded him his adventures life, becomes, in Marko's eyes, the main obstacle to the true life of a medieval knight, fighting always for justice and love. The cosmopolitan spirit of Marko Polo could not accept the narrow-minded policy of the Venetian Republic, which relied on strictly hierarchical principles within the Republic and on imperial desires in its relationship with the outside world. He understood the dichotomy of nobleman/plebeian as the framework of western society only, with a tendency towards the mutual meeting of the poles in this structural pair and not towards their ever greater separation. Therefore, it is not strange that he found himself among the most ardent critics of the government. Specifically, they requested that the Big Council abolish the decree by which only noblemen and their descendants could be elected as members of that supreme body. The revolt was led by the plebeian Marin Boccon, and many respected Venetians were on his side as, for example, the rich nobleman Baiamonte Tiepolo. But the revolt of the plebeians was very soon crushed in bloodshed in the very style of un unenlightened medieval "Republic". According to the Venetian chronicle of 1413, Marin Baccon and other leaders of the conspiracy were executed, while other conspirators, 43 of them, managed to escape from the town of Venice, outside the reach of the Big Council. Some of the conspirators took refuge in Hungarian-Croatian territory, which was then under the rule of the mighty nobleman, Pavao Subic, with his seat in Skradin. As Tiepolo and his associates came there, some historians think that Marko spent long years of exile in his native Dalmatia. But that remained the greatest mystery in the otherwise transparent life orbit of the first world traveller.

Fra Jacopo d'Acqui, a contemporary of Marko Polo and his first biographer, described Marko's words at his death bed, one winter day in January 1324. When the priest, and Marko's relatives and friends asked him to refute finally all those countless lies which he presented as his real adventures, Marko Polo raised himself from the bed, rebuked them and said: "I have not told you the half of what I had experienced because I knew that you would not believe me."


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