Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The question is asked in the context of theories about the use of 'millions' or 'milioni' in association with Marco Polo and the reason for the use of the word as the Italian title for his book, known in English as 'The Travels of Marco Polo' and the Ca' Polo, which is still known as the 'Corte del Milion'.

One of the theories (cited in Moule and Pelliot (1938), p 32, note 3) is that it is an Italian version of Aemilius and that it was Marco's name.

Another that it was on account of either his excessive use of the word or his exaggeration in telling stories, although the word does not appear in his book. (Moule and Pelliot (1938), p 33, note 1), (Yule (1871) p xciv f).

Another that it was because the Ca' Polo was bought for a million (Yule, as above).

These are all credible and substantiated. There is another theory put forward by Benedetto, in his 1928 edition of the work, however, which is that it is based on the family having originated in 'the Venetian Sestiere of Emilione'. (as quoted in Markus and Munkler).

I haven't been able to verify Benedetto's account directly, to see whether he meant a Venetian sestiere, or a region near Venice (eg Emilia-Romagna / Reggio Emilia / Castelfranco Emilia) nor have I been able to find any mention of a Venetian Sestiere called 'Emilione'.

So - my questions are:

1) Is there any record of such a district existing in Venice? I can find no reference to it on contemporary or historic maps I've looked at to date. Nor have I found a reference to a Church of Santa Emilia there, for example.

2) Is there any evidence to connect the Polo family with any of the 'Emilia' regions?

share|improve this question
+1. I was expecting to close this question based on the title that reads a little like a conspiracy theory of a lost treasure. However, I am pleasantly surprised by a great question! Well done sir. –  Sardathrion Mar 13 '14 at 11:00
In modern Italian: s. "sestiere", pl. "sestieri". I don't know if venetian differs. –  Lohoris Mar 13 '14 at 13:41
@Lohoris Thanks - I've corrected. Much obliged. –  Leon Conrad Mar 13 '14 at 14:16
Have you considered asking a modified version of this question on the Italian Stack Exchange? If you focused on the meaning of "milion" in his name, you avoid this being a duplicate (because here you are asking for about the Emilia regions specifically). Also, native Italian speakers may have better access to and better understanding of pertinent documents. –  nograpes Mar 16 '14 at 16:20

1 Answer 1

In the 1865 catalog of Bernard Quaritch (one of the oldest and most respected book dealers in the world) it says that the epithet of "Il millione" (by the millions) is an idiom meant to be a mocking nickname for someone prone to exaggeration.

In his own time, many of Marco Polo's stories were regarded as outlandish and wildly exaggerated. Someone who tells stories "by the millions" means that they are making huge exaggerations.

Also, by the way, Marco Polo was born and raised in Korcula, not Venice. His family originally was from Sibenik, but by the time of his birth they were operating out of Korcula.

share|improve this answer
Does anyone other than the Croatian National Tourist Board supports the theory that Marco Polo was born and raised in Korcula? –  Yannis May 14 '14 at 8:33
Its not just Marco Polo, by the way, all the Polos are originally from Sibenik, the entire family. Polo is not a Venetian name. –  Tyler Durden May 14 '14 at 11:06
[citation-needed] –  Yannis May 14 '14 at 11:41
Thanks for the information - I'm afraid I'm with Yannis in needing more concrete information - Moule and Pelliot back in 1938 pointed out there was a confusion between 2 branches of the Polo family - archive.org/stream/descriptionofwor01polo#page/16/mode/2up - p 17, and note 2. This has been a recurring theme in the historiography of Marco Polo to date. Do you know of any more recent research which provides new evidence for your claim? –  Leon Conrad May 14 '14 at 17:46

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.