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History Lessons by Jonathan Gifford

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MARCO POLO

(1254–1324)

In the middle of the thirteenth century, Europe was still reeling under the terrifying attacks of the Mongol hordes that had appeared so suddenly from the East. The Mongol cavalry crossed the mountains and deserts that had always been the natural barriers between east and West, destroying mighty cities in Central Asia previously thought to be invulnerable to mere tribesmen. They smashed down city walls with siege engines they had adopted following their conquest of northern China, massacred the occupants, and devastated the surrounding countryside, sweeping all before them. Led at first by the mighty Genghis Khan and then by his descendants, the Mongols destroyed a Persian dynasty that had ruled Greater Iran and much of ...

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