Marco Polo = Marko Pilich, the Croat?

Marco Polo (1254 ? - 1324) was a famous explorer, who opened Europe to Asia, including China. Henry S. Hart in his book "Venetian Adventurer: Marco Polo" (Oklahoma, 1967) states that Marco Polo was "a descendant of an old Dalmatian family which had come from Sibenik, Dalmatia, and settled in Venice in the 11th Century." Hart then goes on to say, "The crews of the Venetian ships were freemen, so many of them Slavonians (Croatians) from the Dalmatian Coast, that the long quay by St. Mark's was and is known as Riva degli Sciavoni (Slavonian = Croatian)." Marco Polo was buried in a Slavic quarter in Venice, near the Riva degli Sciavoni (or "Riva od Hrvatov", according to Croatian sources).

Especially important is Marco Polo's Coat of Arms which includes four chickens. In Italian, Polo means chicken or fowl (written as pollo in Italian). In Croatian Pilich means chicks or chickens. Accidnet or coincidence? This is a question raised by dr Adam Eterovic, distinguished expert in Croatian heraldry.

As indicated by dr Eterovic, the merchant and the noble class in Dalmatia did use two names, one Latin-Italian as citizens of Vencie, and their own Slavic name in their own circles. Bogdanich became Bogdaneo, Mladinich - Mladineo, Arnerich - Arneri, Glavinich - Capogrosso. Some simply used the Latin - Italian meaning of their name, such as Cvietkovich - Florio or Fiorini, Vukasinovich - Lupich, Pilich - Polo, etc.

The Croatian Census of Population for 1948 lists DEPOLO on the Island of Korcula with 40 individuals in 15 families. Also the City of Drnis near Sibenik has over 25 families with more than 130 individuals named Pilich. How about Croatian Marco Polo?

A British historian James A. Gilman founded "The Institute of Marco Polo" on the island of Korcula, believing that this was the place where he had been born. See [Gregory Peroche], p. 49.

I would like to thank Adam Eterovich for permission to use material from his publications as well as for personal communication.

Sources and commentaries (see Eterovich's booklet for more details):

  • Genealogie de Nobili Veneti, Brit. Museum, Ms. 1155, 1679: "Polo clan originated in Sibenik, 1033"
  • Biografia Universal Antica e Moderna, 1878, Venice: "Polo family came from Dalmatia"
  • Dizionario Universal di Geografia, Storia e Biografia, 1878, Milano: "Marco came from Dalmatia"
  • Dolcetti Giovanni; Il Libre D'Argent delle Famiglie Venete, Nobili Cittadine e Popolani, 1922, Venice: "Polo origins from Sibenik in 1033"
  • Ida von Dueringsfeld; Aus Dalmatien, 1875: "Marco born on Korcula"
  • Giovanna Monticola; La Vita Dal Dogi, 1900, Citta di Castelo: "Polo of Dalmatia became nobility in 1381"
  • La Vita Dal Dogi, 1522, Venice: "Polo family came from Dalmatia"
  • Storia Universal Italiana, 1878, Milano: "Polo family came from Dalmatia"
  • Jules Verne; Viaggi di Marco Polo, 1884, Milano: "Polo family came from Dalmatia"
  • Sir Henry Yule; The Book of Sir Marco Polo, 1903, London: "Polo originated in Sibenik in 1033"

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