Marco Polo and the European Expansion of the Middle Ages

THE history of the growth of Christian civilization into a practically universal predominance does not begin with the discovery of America, or of the Cape Route, or of the way round the globe. It does not open with that revival of classical study which we call the Renaissance. Its most brilliant chapters precede the Reformation. It is bound up with the whole history of the Middle Ages, with the time of the making of the modern nations.

In the evolution of these modern nations, there are few things more remarkable than the influence of the Scandinavians, which lies behind the whole of the great revival of Mediæval Europe, from the Dark Ages of the seventh, eighth, and tenth centuries, to the vigorous and even brilliant civilization of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth. The gradual association, incorporation, or alliance of the Norseman, the Dane, and the Swede, with the Christian nations he came to plunder or destroy, is certainly the most decisive fact in history between the rise of Islam and the Crusades, and has a peculiar connection with the Columbian or American chapter of human development.

First of all, the Northern invaders scattered themselves over the whole shoreline, and often penetrated far within the continent, or the older Christendom, from the Elbe to Gibraltar — in less degree, from Gibraltar to the Bosphorus, or even to the Caucasus. Gradually they breathed their spirit — barbarously, but effectively, they infused their energy — into every Christian nation. Thus they accomplish what is essentially a regeneration of European life and energy; they impart to nearly all the great European peoples something of their own fire; and they start afresh that forward movement which Greece and Rome had once led, and in which Mediæval Christendom persists, from the eleventh century, until its own civilization has grown into the larger, stronger, and more complicated organism of the modern world. The Crusades themselves; the territorial, commercial, and missionary expansion that follows the Crusades; the new spirit of external enterprise and far-reaching ambition, which marks the Latin world from the days of Hildebrand; the extension of European influence in the later Middle Ages toward ultimate domination in the extra-European world — cannot rightly be dissociated from the impulse given by the Scandinavian migrations, piracies, conquests, and settlements. The creative, stimulative, and invigorative effects of the Northern invasions have perhaps never yet been generally understood, or fully appreciated.

In particular, the Scandinavians play a remarkable part in anticipation of Columbus. For their pioneers — pirates, conquerors, or colonists — not merely overrun and appropriate one Normandy in France, and another in Italy; settle one-half of England, and finally subdue the rest; plant themselves on the Scottish and Irish, the German and Spanish coasts, and even for a moment on the shore of Northwest Africa; create the Russian nation of pre-Mongol time; penetrate, as leaders of Russian expansion, to Siberia on one side and to Caucasia on another; become the Old Guard of the Byzantine emperors, powerful agents of the great Byzantine revival; and explore the seas of Northern Europe, from Archangel to Iceland. They also discover and settle in Greenland, properly belonging to the American world; and they sight arid examine various regions of Northeastern America, which may fairly be identified with Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and perhaps certain districts of New England. In one part of the country, which they call Vineland from its wild vines, they vainly attempt to settle.

It is not impossible that Columbus may have gained some knowledge of these Far-Western explorations. Yet it is elsewhere, in other fields, along other lines, and through the work of other races, — however much these races owe their vital quickening to Scandinavian blood and spirit and example, — that we find the immediate historical preparation for the great oceanic discoveries which introduce us to the modern world.

The achievement of the man who, seeking Asia by a Western Ocean route from Spain, found across his path that New World called America, is directly the result of centuries of continuous European expansion Asia-ward, first by overland, then by maritime, routes.

The European expansion I speak of, the definite anticipation of Columbus, as well as of Vasco da Gama, begins in the middle of the thirteenth century, when direct, and friendly intercourse is opened between Latin Christendom and the Mongol Empire (from 1245). It is now that the lands of Higher, Upper, or Inner Asia, the earlier dominion of the new Tartar conquerors of the East, are visited, explored, and described by the first of the great overland travelers of Europe, the Franciscan Friars, John de Plano Carpini, the Italian, and William of Rubrouck, the French Fleming (1245-55). From these pioneers Christendom also learns something of the richer countries

— China and the Indies — which lie just beyond their own explorations, and is thus prepared for the revelations of the Polos in the next generation, from 1260 to 1295.

The Polos, and especially Marco, the historian of their journeys, to whose book 1 we owe our first real picture of Asia as a whole, are among the most important of the predecessors of Christopher Columbus, — not even the Scandinavians have so direct and unquestionable a right to this name. The great Genoese adventurer sailed in 1492 in search of Japan, China, and the Indies — the very regions Messer Marco and his relatives may be said to have discovered for the Western World; in the Antilles Columbus thought he had found various lands of East Asia; Cuba, to his mind, is obviously the Polos’ Zipangu or Japan.

These Italian traders then are the first to disclose to Europe, with something like accuracy and completeness, the treasurehouses of the Far East. They are the earliest representatives of Western Christendom — of Columbus’s world — to make their way across the whole length of Asia by land, and round most of its southern coasts by sea. From the Crimea to the Volga and Bokhara in one journey, from Cilicia to North Persia and over the Pamir in another, they cross the Gobi desert and the Mongolian steppes to Peking and the Yangtse Kiang, to the Imperial Canal and the ports of Fokien. From Amoy Harbor they return to Persia, by the Indian Archipelago, Malabar, and Ormuz, finally reaching Venice by Trebizond and the Bosphorus.

They are the first Europeans really to discover, and adequately to describe, that China which was then more civilized, populous, and wealthy than any other land, — Christian, Muslim, or heathen; whose cities and manufactures, roads and posts, canals and river-ports, ocean harbors and inland trade, put even Italy to shame. They are the earliest to tell us, with any fullness and knowledge, of the countries and peoples of Indo-China — Burma, Siam, Annam, Laos. They are the only Westerns of the Middle Ages to perceive, and absolutely the earliest to disclose to Christendom, the existence and the half-fabled riches of Japan. From them comes the best account yet given to Catholic nations of the spice-lands of the East Indies, source of those aromatics already so prized, but whose origin was till now so obscure. They first describe to us, in the tongue of the Franks, the “ very noble ” Java, the multiform Sumatra, Zanzibar, and Madagascar. They give a better picture than had yet been drawn, by any Latin pen, of Ceylon, of the Malabar and Coromandel coasts, and in general of Southern, Southeastern, and Western India — as well as of Russia and the Far Northern Land of Darkness, where it was “as with us in the twilight.”

To Messer Marco himself, and to many of his readers, China, the most valuable part of the Grand Khan’s immediate dominion and of the Mongol Empire as a whole, was also the most interesting of countries; and in the Polo narrative we certainly have the best mediæval picture, both of Chinese localities and of Chinese civilization, from the European side.

Beginning with a description of the person, character, court, and administrative system of Kublai himself, Marco guides us through Peking with remarkable thoroughness and vivacity, details various peculiarities of Chinese manners and customs, and concludes by tracing two lines of travel through the Celestial Empire, — southwest and southeast from Peking, — which together give him the opportunity to depict most of the great cities and markets of the Far East.

But perhaps in no part of his work did Marco make a deeper impression upon European thought, and more effectively stimulate European interest and cupidity, than in his sketch of the MongolChinese court and capital.

It was Kublai, he tells us, who first gave to Peking, or Canbaluc, — the “City of the Khan,”—that dual aspect which has continued to our own day. The Khan was told by his astrologers that the older city, celebrated under various names for more than a thousand years before his time, would prove insurgent; he therefore built a new town immediately to the north, and forced most of the people of the ancient metropolis to move into his Taidu or “Great Court.” This mighty creation of Tartar prudence formed a square, six miles each way, and was encompassed by a lofty wall, fifty feet in height, pierced by twelve great gates which were also forts and arsenals on a vast scale.

Inside, the town was divided like a chess-board into squares by wide, straight streets cutting each other at right angles — “ so wide and straight that you can see along them from end to end, from one gate to the other.”

“Up and down the city ” were beautiful palaces and fine hostelries and houses. All the house-lots were four-square, laid out in straight lines, and occupied by great and spacious buildings, furnished with courts and gardens of corresponding size. Each square plot was encompassed by handsome streets for traffic, and thus the whole city was “ disposed in a manner so masterly that it was impossible to describe it justly.”

In the midst of Canbaluc, moreover, was a great curfew-bell which was sounded every night as a stop to business. For after it had struck three times no one could go out in the town, unless for the needs of a woman in labor or for the sick. And any who went upon such errands were bound to carry lanterns with them. Guards patrolled the city after the Great Bell had struck, and if they found any person abroad he was taken immediately to prison, and examined next morning by the proper officers.

The situation was a little like that of Constantinople during the recent revolution, where “any theological students met with in the streets are forthwith conducted to the nearest police-station.” Nor was all, or half, Peking to be found inside the walls, — for outside stretched suburbs so vast that they contained more people than the city proper.

“ And here lodge the foreign merchants and travelers,” proceeds Marco, “ of whom there are always great numbers come to bring presents to the Emperor, or to sell articles at court, or because the city affords so good a market to attract traders. Here therefore are many fine hostelries for the lodgment of merchants from all parts, a special hostelry being assigned to each description of people, as if we should say, there is one for the Lombards, another for the Germans and a third for the Frenchmen. And thus there are as many good houses outside the city as inside.”

For the Peking of those days was one of the world’s great markets. Polo indeed declares that its import commerce was without a rival — “ to this city are brought articles of greater cost and rarity, and in greater abundance, than to any other.” But the explorer’s worst fault is an overresponsiveness to the enthusiasm of the moment: any marvel of his experience, as he recalls it in these Recollections, tends to outdo all that has gone before.

Yet, even if Peking’s trade were not comparable to that of Quinsai, or Hangchau (as we certainly should judge from the description of the latter by the Venetian himself), it was, as we know from other sources, of enormous quantity and value.

“ From every region they bring goods, including all the costly wares of India, as well as the fine and precious goods of Cathay itself, with its provinces — some for the sovereign and the court, some for the city which is so great, some for the barons and knights, some for the imperial hosts which are quartered round about. And thus between court and city the quantity is endless. And as an example of this trade I tell you that no day passes in the year in the which there do not enter the city one thousand cartloads of silk alone. Nor is this to be wondered at: for in all the countries round about there is no flax, so that everything has to be made of silk. In certain parts, it is true, there are cotton and hemp, but not sufficient for their wants. This however is not of much consequence as silk is so abundant and so cheap.”

From the City of the Khan, Marco passes to the magnificence of the Khan himself.

In the chief of his Peking palaces, the “ greatest that ever was,” walls and ceiling were covered with gold and silver, and emblazoned with scenes and figures of all kinds — dragons, idols, warriors, beasts, and birds; six thousand guests could feast with comfort in the dininghall; while the roof, colored with green, blue, yellow, and vermilion, and varnished so that it shone like crystal, was “ built as if to last forever.”

Nor was the imperial luxury satisfied with palaces. For a sight even more marvelous to the Frank visitors was the hill which the Khan had reared in his Peking park with earth dug out to make a lake — a hill a mile in circuit and a hundred paces high, covered with trees that never lost their leaves. “ And I assure you that wherever a beautiful tree is found and the Emperor gets news of it, he has it transported with all its roots and earth and planted on that hill of his. No matter how big the tree may be, he has it carried thither by his elephants. And he has also covered the whole hill with the ore of azure [i. e., with carbonate of copper] which is very green, and on the summit of the hill is a fine palace all green inside and out. So not only are the trees green, but the hill itself is all green likewise, and there is nothing to be seen on it that is not green; and hence it is called the ‘Green Mount,’ and in good sooth it is well-named.”

Finally, to complete his picture of an unequaled power, wealth, and splendor, Marco describes the ceremonial of the Great Khan’s table, especially at the festivals of the Imperial Birthday and the New Year, and tells us of the imperial bodyguard, so resplendent in their golden girdles and gem-bedizened robes, that “ every man of them ” (and they were 12,000 strong) “ looked like a king.”

Was not the lord who could maintain such state, whose capital was such a city, and to whom the whole Tartar world paid such homage, from the Eastern Ocean to the Black Sea, truly the most potent man that was or ever had been in the world,“from the time of our first father Adam until this day ” ?

After this portrait of Peking and its ruler, followed by an invaluable sketch of the system of administration, finance, and intelligence in the Tartar-Chinese world (his description of the roads and post is exceptionally interesting), Marco Polo returns, in the more normal style of his Book, to his Account of Regions, unfolding a Far-Eastern panorama which long held the attention of Christian Europe, and helped to inspire the explorations of succeeding centuries.

And in this panorama there are two or three points of supreme importance, for upon these the Polo narrative focuses the attention of the Catholic world, and upon these above all are fixed the hopes and expectations of Catholic leaders, when at last rediscovering, as they imagine, the treasuries of Eastern Asia.

The first of these that I will notice is the fertile region, the heart of the tea and silk country of the Great Plain of China, just south of the estuary of the Yangtse Kiang, which contained the famous cities of Hangchau and Suchau, unsurpassed, as the Chinese proverb declared, in Heaven itself.

There ’s Paradise above’t is true —
But here below we ’ve Hang and Su.

Upon Hang, in particular, Su’s greater rival, Marco lavishes all his powers of administration and delineation. For beyond dispute, declares the traveler (and here his verdict is that of every observer of the central and later Middle Age), this was “ the noblest city and the best in all the world.” Lying close to the sea, a little southwest of modern Shanghai, it was also close to the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, and to an ancient but now disused branch of the Yangtse. For more than a century it had been the capital of the Sung emperors, who ruled South China between 1127 and 1276. Its conquest by the Mongol arms had been the crowning mercy of Kublai’s reign. Here perhaps the early Arab merchants traded and prospered in the ninth century, and Muslim writers of the fourteenth have as exalted a conception of this Quinsai, “ stretching like Paradise through the breadth of Heaven,” as Marco Polo himself.

According to the official statement furnished by the native rulers on their submission to the Mongols, Hangchau, about the time young Marco first arrived in China, was still more than twenty miles in circuit; it possessed twelve thousand bridges of stone, crossing the innumerable canals and water courses that intersected the town; and it boasted of a dozen craft-guilds, each of which owned twelve thousand houses, while each house contained several, and some as many as forty, workmen. The total number of houses or “ hearth-fires ” within the city area was one million six hundred thousand.

The goods imported yearly were beyond value; as an example by which to judge the rest, Marco quotes the single article of pepper, of which nearly ten thousand pounds entered the walls every day.

Under the immediate jurisdiction of Hangchau were one hundred and forty large and wealthy towns, and from salt alone this province paid a yearly customs revenue of nearly six millions of gold ducats; from sugar, spice, wine, silk, and coal, the return was more than equal to twice that sum.

The beauty, comfort, and attractions of Quinsai were worthy of its wealth and people. The charming and ample lake on its western side, where the citizens took their pleasure, even the busiest, when the day’s work was done (this famous pleasance was also known to Polo’s younger contemporary, the Arab Abulfeda); the markets, where everything one needed could be bought so cheaply (and such luxury was here “ that one often ate fish and flesh at the same meal "); the places and persons of public entertainment — all combined to delight and bewitch the stranger, so that when at home he could only think and talk of Heaven’s City, and long to return tis speedily as might be.

One thing only was wanting — and to this the greedy and warlike peoples of the West listened intently. Of arms and their handling these sybarites knew little, and cared less; manly courage and skill in fightingwere equally lacking. For while philosophers and physicians, traders and craftsmen, were welcomed and honored, soldiers were hated and despised, and unkindly ranked with butchers in the lowest social class. Well was it for the world that this was so. “For if the men of China had but the spirit of soldiers, they would conquer the world.”

Again, before he quits the China seas, Marco Polo adds a chapter of especial interest to his readers upon the islands of the Eastern Ocean, among which the first and most important was Zipangu. The picture here attempted, the earliest revelation of Japan to the Christian world, exercised a peculiar fascination on posterity, and among the objects of the enterprise of 1492 there was none more treasured by the admiral than the discovery of this land, the realization of the glittering vision he had caught from the old Venetian.

This Zipangu, then, appears to Marco as a very great island, lying out some fifteen hundred miles in the ocean on the east or Levant side of China. The idolatrous inhabitants, white, courteous, and of handsome aspect, were exceedingly rich in gold — so rich that the king’s palace, as men said, had golden windows, and was wholly paved and roofed with the precious metal (just as Christian churches with stone or lead) in the form of plates, two fingers thick. Nor were these the only riches of Zipangu. For it also possessed rose-tinted pearls of great value, and abundance of other gems — treasures which had already excited the cupidity of Kublai Khan, and were destined to rouse the greed of Catholic conquistadores two centuries later.

But Japan was not the only interest of the Sea of China. “For I tell you, with regard to that Eastern Sea, according to what is said by the experienced pilots and mariners of those parts, there are seven thousand four hundred and forty-eight islands in the waters frequented by the said mariners. And there is not one of those islands but produces valuable and odorous woods, and gold, and gems, and all manner of spices — pepper as white as snow, and also the black kind in great quantity.” Immense profit could be made when a man had once made the long and difficult journey to these Spice Islands, and thus, despite all obstacles, and the fact that for this journey a full year’s navigation was necessary from the Chinese mainland, they were regularly visited by the merchant ships of the great South China ports. When the Latin West had read this passage in Messer Marco’s Book, it resolved that the merchant ships of Europe should also have their share in this traffic; the resolve was realized; and the realization involved the discovery of the ocean route to the Indies.

Lastly, by his treatment of these Indies, stretching (in his view) from Annam and Cocliin China to Abyssinia, Zanzibar, and even Madagascar, Marco Polo stimulates the greed and ambition of the West as forcibly as by his rhapsody on Hangchau, or by his tales of Japan and the Isles of Spices. The gold of Java (mainly fabulous as it was), the rubies of Ceylon, the pearls, sapphires, and emeralds of Coromandel, the Valley of Diamonds in the Northern Deccan, the pepper, cotton, indigo, ginger, and dyewood of Malabar, the ambergris of Socotra, the ivory of Zanzibar, the incense of Hadramaut — were not these enough to attract the desires and inspire the resolution of the Catholic merchant, the Catholic crusader, and the Catholic sovereign ?

The experiences of the Polos, therefore, are not merely a delightful or romantic tale: they afford a basis and startingpoint for all the subsequent expansion of Latin Europe. The new knowledge is bound up with material gain; the Venetian pioneers, effectively open to Christian enterprise, or at least to Christian intelligence and study, those markets which every ambitious and wealth-loving people had long considered to be the prizes of the world. From this time “ Frankish ” civilization directs itself, first by overland, then by oversea, routes toward that Cathay, those Indies, where it looks to find the riches, if not the empire, which at last rewarded its unconquerable energy and persistence.

In the Columbian or Columbus Library at Seville, there is a printed copy of the Polo record — the Liber Diversorum or Livre des Diversités of Messer Marco Milioni — which belonged to Colon, and in this there are manuscript notes, by Christopher himself, on seventy-six of the one hundred and fifty pages, showing how well he knew and how much he valued the book which perhaps more than any other was his guide.

Anti even if Polo’s name does not occur in the admiral’s Journal of the voyage of 1492 (or rather in the Abstract of that Journal which is all that we possess), yet Polo’s Cathay and Zipangu are constantly in evidence herein.

A week before he lands at Guanahani, Columbus opines that the Pinzon suggestion to steer southwest is “not made with respect to Cipango.” Two days after the discovery, he feels he must go on to try and find Cipango; and when he reaches Cuba, he believes it, from the signs the Indians make, to be this very land. At the same time he is equally anxious to reach the mainland of China; he is determined to deliver the letters of the Catholic kings to the Gran Can, now so hopeless an anachronism. With the said Gran Can, he gathers from the natives, a Cuban monarch was now at war; the Can’s great ships, he understood, came to Cuba, ten days’ journey from the Chinese mainland; the cotton of the West Indies would be sure of a good market in his cities; his Majesty was perhaps in the “ grand city of Cathay.” “ It is certain,” he writes, while still off the Cuban coast, “ that I am in front of Zayto and Guinsay ” — of Amoy Harbor and Hangchau.

And again, in the Cariba or Caniba, which was described to him as the “ main land behind Española,” — in our language, the north coast of South America, — Columbus believes he has at last located the name and kingdom of the Can.

The Book of Marco Polo is the fullest and most remarkable record of the great age of mediæval overland intercourse, of the earlier Asiatic expansion of Catholic Europe, which began with Carpini and with Rubrouck. But the Polo journeys do not exhaust this movement, mainly commercial and missionary, of Western Christendom upon the Mongol world. Under the Tartar emperors there is little hindrance from religious bigotry or mercantile exclusiveness, and the extent of the Tartar dominion, unchallenged by any serious rival to the north of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, and the Arabian deserts, enables the Europeans favored by the Khans to explore, observe, traffic, and proselytize from the Black Sea and the Polish frontiers to the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the South Siberian plains. In many directions the knowledge won by the Polos is amplified; Catholic preachers and traders collect an abundance of fresh material, and thus, for instance, enable the men of the fourteenth century to form a clearer and fuller conception of Asia, in some respects, than the Milioni himself.

Monte Corvino, the Apostle of both China and the Deccan; Jordanus, the first Roman Bishop of Malabar, most delightful of companions, most praiseworthy of zoölogists, most simple-minded of missionaries; the Franciscans and Dominicans who suffer near Bombay, near Lake Balkhash, near Trebizond, or near Astrakhan; Friar Odoric (perhaps the first European visitor to Lhassa), who travels so widely, and observes so well, in the Celestial Empire and in the Eastern Archipelago; John of Florence, who heads the last great embassy from Western Christendom to the Mongol court in Peking, and who testifies to the activity of Italian merchants and Christian missionaries in Chinese and Indian ports, as well as on the northern edge of the Gobi desert; the statesmen who weave a network of Roman bishoprics over fourteenth-century Asia; the men who fill those bishoprics, or serve in their territories ; the merchants who explore so steadily, and exploit so brilliantly, the trade-routes from the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, or the Azov, to the Indian Ocean or the Pacific — all help to form that conception of the East which we find among the immediate precursors of Columbus.

The Catalan Atlas, executed in Catalonia or the Balearics for Charles V of France only some eighty years before Colon’s birth, shows us the position, extent, chief divisions, towns, and rivers of China with an accuracy and completeness which can hardly be paralleled till long after the discovery of America. For the first time in human history, the Indian peninsula, ignored by so many geographers even of the sixteenth century, is exhibited correctly enough in general outline; and a knowledge is displayed of the interior of Asia, which in certain points is perhaps not surpassed until the nineteenth century. A work of Wycliffe’s age, which portrays so many of the lakes, rivers, and towns, of regions which have become well known to Europeans only within the memory of men yet living, is indeed one which materially concerns the progress of our race. Whether Columbus saw it or no, whether he received information of its contents or not, we cannot say. But we know that here we have the last word of his predecessors upon the remoter Orient which he set out to find.

Yet at the very time when this splendid quarts de mer en tableaux was compiled (1375), the experiment of winning foothold in Asia by Mongol friendship, of establishing regular communication — political, ecclesiastical, and above all commercial — between Western Europe and the heathen lands beyond the Islamic world, finally breaks down. The diplomacy, the trade, the religion of the Catholic nations are defeated in their overland penetration of the East.

Into an Orient so anarchic and so perilous as the Upper Asia of the fifteenth century it is futile to attempt entrance. Neither for commerce, nor for conversion, do the vast regions lately subject directly or indirectly to the Gran Can of whom Columbus dreams, now offer sufficient inducement for European enterprise. The last pretense of a universal power in Tartary or Turkistan, of a ruler able to ensure order and safe transit over any great part of the continent, has disappeared with the death of Timur (1405). And nearly a generation before that event the infusion of Muslim prejudice into the Turco-Tartar mind has been successfully accomplished in most of Western Asia.

In the Far East a revolution not less momentous is signified by the expulsion of the Mongol dynasty from China (136870). The Celestial Kingdom, free from the internationalism of the Yuen, is able once more to revolve securely in its own orbit, to keep at a safe distance all “ profane and foreign novelties,” to “ restore the purity of the institutes of the Central Flowery Land.” The imperial race of Chingiz and Kublai Khan, thrown back upon its own Mongolia, is condemned to permanent obscurity beyond the Pamir and the Thian Shan, just as in Persia, in Russia, and in Trans-Oxiana, its nobler qualities are ruined by fanatical spirit and civil strife, and its unity is broken into a hundred warring fragments, owning no suzerain but Allah, welcoming no culture but a theological, dreading any breath of infidel life, and jealous even of the profit-bringing merchant of the West.

Thus, before the close of the fourteenth century, Latin Christendom has been finally defeated in its overland attacks (whether by trade, diplomacy, or missionary enterprise) upon the great centres of Asiatic civilization, wealth, and military power; but in failure lay the elements of success. Accurate knowledge of the goal aimed at; a realization of the value of unrestricted access to the distant sources of Oriental wealth; some understanding of the weakness of that Orient; a better conception of the all-encircling and connecting ocean, and of its function as an aid of human intercourse; an exaggerated but stimulating vision of the Christian communities lying beyond the Islamic zone — in the Indies, in East Africa, and in the heart of Asia; and a policy of founding, with the aid of these allies, new and greater Christian empires than had perished in the Levant, — these are among the results of that ubiquitous and sustained energy which had explored the Asiatic world from the days of Carpini. And yet one more thing had been gained. A beginning had been made in the right direction. For, at the very time of the most zealous prosecution of overland expansion, the first attempts are made toward the realization of the maritime alternative. The earliest definite movements of the Catholic nations along those waterways which brought them as conquerors to the Indies of the East and West precede the final return of the Polos from the court of Kublai Khan.

  1. The Booh of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian, concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East.