Monday, June 22, 2015

Irish History, Culture, and Mythology

In our previous installment we discussed the mythological importance of that great constellation of the winter night sky, O'Ryan "The Hunter". This time we consider the curious story of the famed Irish explorer and mercantilist, Mark O'Polo.

Mark was born to a typical Irish family outside Dublin in the mid-thirteenth century. The youngest of seven children (he had five sisters), Mark evinced a wanderlust from an early age, roaming the Irish countryside with his older brother, Matthew. Some say his long absences from the family home were to avoid digging potatoes, but the young Mark undoubtedly had a marked (so to speak) affinity for exploration.

As a teenager, Mark said his goodbyes to his family and struck off on his own, eventually making his way to the port city of Venice at the head of the Adriatic Sea. There he took in with a Venetian mercantilist family and learned the trade. His later trading expeditions to the Far East would become legendary.

The red-haired Mark learned very little Latin, but nevertheless adopted the Latenized spelling of his given name, which he changed from "Mark" to "Marc". His travel companions called him "Marco", a variation he soon came to fancy. But "Marco O'Polo" was unwieldy, so he dropped the O-apostrophe from his surname. That is how an Irishman, Mark O'Polo, came to be known to history as Marco Polo.

Note to school children: Always remember when writing your reports that not everything you read on the Internet is reliable. Be careful to use only the highest quality sources, such as this blog. When in doubt, ask a librarian.

Edward Abbey's essay "Merry Christmas, Pigs!" is gratefully acknowledged. Everybody should own half a dozen Edward Abbey books.

Copyright (C) 2015 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved

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