El Cid

The Cid (1043-1099), or Cid Campeador, was the greatest Spanish medieval warrior and remains one of Spain's national heroes. At a time when Berber invaders threatened Castile, the Cid alone was able to rally his countrymen and emerge victorious.

Rodrigo Diaz, later called the Cid was born in Vivar, a village north of Burgos. Vivar was the fief of his father, Diego Lainez, a minor nobleman. About 1058 his father died, and Rodrigo went to live in the household of Prince Sancho. When the prince became King Sancho II in 1065, he gave Rodrigo the highest position at court, that of standard bearer or head of the royal armies. Soon after, in order to settle a jurisdictional dispute between Navarre and Castile, Rodrigo defeated a Navarrese knight in single combat, gaining thereby the epithet of Campeador (from the Latin campidoctoris, "one who captures fields").

In 1067 Sancho and Rodrigo besieged the Islamic kingdom of Saragossa. Rodrigo was the outstanding figure in this siege, and it may have been at this time that Christians and Arabs alike began to call him Cidi or Cid (from the Arabic sayyidi, "my lord"). In January 1072 Sancho and his brother Alfonso, the king of León, battled at Golpejera. Sancho won the day and forced Alfonso into exile. Their sister Urraca then began to conspire against Sancho at Zamora. Sancho besieged this city and was murdered there in October 1072. After the Cid forced Alfonso to swear that he had no complicity in Sancho's assassination, Alfonso became also king of Castile.

The Cid continued in the royal service and married Alfonso's niece Jimena in 1074. But he was too powerful and popular for Alfonso's taste. The Cid's enemies at court declared that he was not a faithful vassal but a traitor, and the King believed them. Thus after a victorious campaign against Toledo, the Cid was exiled from Castile in the summer of 1081. He spent his first decade of exile fighting for various Christian and Moslem rulers. Throughout he remained loyal to Alfonso, despite the King's steadfast refusal to forgive him.

In 1090 the Cid, in coalition with the kings of Saragossa and Aragon, concentrated on repelling the advance of the Berber Almoravids in eastern Spain. In November 1092 he began a siege of Valencia, and the city finally fell in June 1094. As ruler of Valencia, which he captured in the name of Alfonso VI but governed as an autonomous territory, the Cid strove to build up the Christian presence in the largely Moslem town. He ruled there until his death on July 10, 1099. His widow Jimena continued to rule, but in 1102 she was forced to abandon Valencia to the Almoravids.


Further Reading on The Cid

The most thorough study of the Cid is by Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Spain's foremost Cid scholar, The Cid and His Spain (2 vols., 1929; trans. 1934). A popular account is Stephen Clissold, In Search of the Cid (1965).

Additional Biography Sources

Matthews, John, El Cid, champion of Spain, Poole, Dorset: Firebird Books; New York, NY: Distributed in the U.S. by Sterling Pub. Co., 1988.

Matthews, John, Warriors of medieval times, Poole, Dorset England: Firebird Books; New York, N.Y.: Distributed in the U.S. by Sterling Pub., 1993.