El Cid


El Cid
El Cid was the title given to Rodrigo Diaz, a Castilian hero of the eleventh century who came to be the national hero of Spain. The legend of El Cid is best preserved in Cantar de mio Cid, the oldest epic poem in the Spanish language. It tells the tale of a man who was not only a military hero, but also embodied couragous and noble personal characteristics that exemplified the very ideal of chivalry. He loved and protected wife and daughters, and he served his king faithfully in spite of many abuses and opportunties to revolt. He showed great heroism in war, but also magnimity in victory, and was reverenced by his Moorish as well as his Christian subjects.

Cid rose to fame during a very complicated period in Spanish history. Just about the time he was born, the Moorish chieftain Almanzor died, and his Moslem empire broke into dozens of feuding city-states. Likewise, the Christian kingdoms in the north were frequently engaged in civil wars. Ferdinand I of Castile did much to unify the Christians and gain territory from the Moors, but on his death he divided his kingdom among his five children. El Cid began his career serving Ferdinand I, and later Sancho the eldest of his sons. Although El Cid counseled against war, Sancho tried to regain his father's kingdom at the expense of his siblings, and was killed as a result. El Cid then served Alfonso VI, a younger brother. The jealousies and distrust among courtiers which occurred as a result of these civil wars does much to explain El Cid's unfortunate relationship with Alfonso. Although El Cid swore loyalty to him, Alfonso feared and distruted El Cid and treated him badly.

To make matters more complex still, the Moors were just as divided as the Christians, and in addition to the Spanish Moors, ambitious African Moorish chieftains were involved in the mix. During El Cid's long exile from Castile he served Moorish kings as well as Christian ones, and his private army contained warriors both Moors and Christians.

The legend of El Cid, which unfolds during these troublous times, tells stories of his persistant heroism and forbearance. He counsels against war, but fights bravely for his king. He fights champions in single combat to restore his family's honor. When King Alfonso betrays him, he does not return the slight and endures five years of exile with courage and humility. He wins the respect of the Moors as well as the Christians, and conquers the Moorish city of Valencia. As conqueror of Valencia he might have declared himself a king, but instead maintained his loyalty to Alfonso. He might have treated his conquered subjects with cruelty, but instead won their trust. He might have strayed from his wife, but was a faithful husband as well as a loyal subject. The Song of Cid is not just the story of a warrior, but that of an ideal hero of chivalry.

Key events during the life of El Cid:

Birth of Rodrigo to a Castilian noble family.
  Serves as a knight under Ferdinand I of Castile.
Serves Ferdinand's son Sancho of Castile after the death of Ferdinand I.
  Slays the champion of Navarre in single combat.
Sancho killed during the siege of Zamora.
Married to Ximena
Siege of Seville.
Cid is banished from Castile due to jealousy of king courtiers.
  Cid is a soldier of fortune, fighting for and against Moslem kingdoms.
Moslem kingdom of Toledo falls to Alfonso VI.
Conquers the Moorish city of Valencia.
Dies during a battle against the Almoravids.

Book Links
Story of the Cid for Young People  by  C. D. Wilson

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Cid Campaedor  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
The Cid Wins his Name  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Cid  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Rise of the Christian Kingdoms in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Cid  in  Heroes Every Child Should Know  by  H. W. Mabie
Ruy Diaz, the Cid Campeador  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Decline of the Moors  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober
Spanish Hero  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Cid Captures Valencia  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

El Cid.
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

She greeted him cordially
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

The Cid overcame this knight
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

The Cid waited for Martin and took him by the hand
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

He took him by the mane and led him back to the court
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

And Muno turned to Suero as he lay on the ground, and lifted his spear against him
 in The Story of the Cid For Young People

Short Biography
Ferdinand I of Castile King who unified many of the Christian kingdoms, but split them upon his death.
Sancho of Castile Eldest son of Ferdiand I, who claimed his entire kingdom.
Alfonso VI King of Castile who with his great warrior El Cid, reconquered Toledo and much other territory from the Moors.
Ximena Beloved wife of El Cid and mother of his two daughters.