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?

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    +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. Mar 13, 2014 at 11:00
  • In modern Italian: s. "sestiere", pl. "sestieri". I don't know if venetian differs.
    – o0'.
    Mar 13, 2014 at 13:41
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    @Lohoris Thanks - I've corrected. Much obliged. Mar 13, 2014 at 14:16
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    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, 2014 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


Only a few cities were divided into sixths. The most famous, those of Venice, were and continue to be Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Marco, and Castello -- nothing resembling the name quoted, Emilione.

The spelling doesn't completely justify this theory, but one outside possibility is that the translator mistook figurative use of the adjectival form of the region's name (a "sestiere emiliano") for the actual name of a sixth. The one relatively closer to Emilia in the south of the city is Dorsoduro. Seeing the Italian text from Benedetto's edition would clear this up.

The statement is a confusing one and I would rely on other sources if possible.

  • Saying that Dorsoduro is "relatively closer to Emilia" is quite a stretch. You might as well say that Staten Island is "relatively closer to Virginia". Yeah, it's the closest part of the city, but in practice the statement is meaningless. May 3, 2018 at 8:15

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.

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    Does anyone other than the Croatian National Tourist Board supports the theory that Marco Polo was born and raised in Korcula?
    – yannis
    May 14, 2014 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. May 14, 2014 at 11:06
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    – yannis
    May 14, 2014 at 11:41
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    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? May 14, 2014 at 17:46

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