Eight hundred years before Marco Polo's birth, some of the people of North Italy had fled before the Attila to the muddy islands of the Adriatic and founded Venice upon them. Since then the little settlement had become the most wealthy and powerful city of Europe . Venice was the queen of the Adriatic and her merchants were princes. They had vessels to bring the costly wares of the East to their wharves; they had warships to protect their rich cargoes from the pirates of the Mediterranean ; they carried on wars. At the time when Marco Polo returned from Cathay they were at war with Genoa (Gen'-o-a).
The two cities were fighting for the trade of the world. In a great naval battle the Venetians were completely defeated. Marco Polo was in the battle and with many of his countrymen was captured by the enemy. For a year he was confined in a Genoese prison. One of his fellow-prisoners was a skillful penman and Marco dictated to him an account of his experiences in China , Japan , and other Eastern countries. This account was carefully written out. Copies of the manuscript exist to this day. One of these is in a library in Paris . It was carried into France in the year 1307. Another copy is preserved in the city of Berne . It is said that the book was translated into many languages, so that people in all parts of Europe learned about Marco's adventures. About a hundred and seventy-five years after the book was written, the famous Genoese, Christopher Columbus, planned his voyage across the Atlantic . It is believed that he had read Marco's description of Java, Sumatra and other East India Islands, which he thought he had reached when he discovered Haiti (Hai'-ti) and Cuba. So Marco Polo may have suggested to Columbus the voyage which led to the discovery of America .