An Overview of the Life of a Spanish National HeroRodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known best as El Cid, is revered as a great national hero of Spain. The name El Cid comes from the Arabic El Seid’ meaning the Lord. Known to his admiring countrymen as campeador’, or champion, he was a Spanish warrior whom later legend made into a hero and the symbol of chivalry and virtue.
El Cid was born in Vivar near Burgos in 1043. His father, Diego Lainez, was a member of the minor nobility, called the infanzones’ of Castile. El Cid was also directly connected on his mother’s side to royalty. History paints two pictures of Rodrigo Diaz.
He was an unprincipled adventurer, who battled against both Christians and Moors. And on the other hand, he was also a symbol of romance, legend, and ballad. He is shown as the tender, loving husband and father, the loyal, courageous soldier, and an ever-present inspiration to Spanish patriotism.
He stands out as the central figure of the long struggle of Christian Spain against the Muslim threats. Fernando I, known as Fernando The Great, died in 1065, and at his death Fernando divided his lands among his three sons: Sancho, Alfonso, and Garcia, and his two daughters: Elvira and Urraca. He also asked them to promise him they would respect his wishes and abide by the divisions. But Sancho, who received the Kingdom of Castile, being the eldest, thought he should have inherited the entire dominions of his father. Sancho was stronger, braver, and craftier than his brothers and sisters and cherished the idea of taking their possessions, and becoming the sole successor of Fernando I. At this time, El Cid was quite young, and Sancho out of gratitude to Rodrigo’s father, had retained him at the court and looked after his education, especially his military training.
When Sancho succeeded to the Castilian throne, he nominated the 22-year-old Cid as alferez’, or commander-in-chief of the royal troops. This early promotion to important office suggests that the young Cid had already won a reputation for military expertise. In 1067, Cid accompanied Sancho on a campaign against the important Moorish kingdom of Saragossa, and he played a leading role in the negotiations that made its king, al-Muqtadir, an ally of the Castilian crown. El Cid played a prominent part in Sancho’s successful crusades against his brother, Alfonso.
In 1072, Sancho was killed and therefore caused Alfonso to be his only possible heir. Although this caused Cid to lose his position as alferez’, and his influence on the court declined, he was allowed to remain there. In 1074, he married a niece of Alfonso’s, Jimena.
In 1081, he led an unauthorized military raid into the Moorish kingdom of Toledo, which was under the protection of Alfonso. The king exiled the Cid from his kingdoms. Several attempts at reconciliation gave no lasting results, and after 1081, Cid never again was able to live in Alfonso’s dominions. After El Cid’s exile, he offered his services to the Muslim dynasty that ruled Saragossa.
The king welcomed the offer of having his kingdom defended by such a prestigious Christian warrior. Cid served there loyally for nearly a decade. It was here that he learned the complexities of Hispano-Arabic politics and of Islamic customs and laws that would later help him to conquer Valencia. He also added to his reputation as a general who had never been defeated in battle. Around 1087, battles against the Almoravids were going on that threatened the whole existence of Christian Spain. It was then that Cid set out on the lengthy and complicated task of making himself leader of the Moorish Kingdom of Valencia. The moment came in October of 1092 when Al Qadir was killed.
After a long siege, Cid achieved his goal, and finally entered Valencia as ruler. There, he acted as chief magistrate of the Muslims as well as the Christians. El Cid ruled Valencia as Lord until his death on July 10, 1099. After his death, however, Valencia again fell under Muslim control.
El Cid’s achievements are recorded in many works including the most famous Spanish epic, The Song of El Cid, and the legendary Poem of the Cid. Composed around the year 1200, these epics describe his heroic deeds and the age of medieval chivalry. In fact, almost 200 ballads have been founded on legends about the Cid. El Cid is synonymous with Spain. He was a dedicated soldier who gave his all to achieve his goal.