m. ABT 1040
Facts and Events
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 1099) was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. He was called El Cid (the Lord) by the Moors and El Campeador (the Champion) by Christians. He is the otherwise real but made legendary national hero of Castile. He was born in Vivar del Cid, a town near the city of Burgos.
Born a member of the minor nobility, El Cid was brought up at the court of King Ferdinand the Great and served in the household of Ferdinand's son Sancho. He rose to become commander and the royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho's ascension in 1065. He went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho's brothers, the rulers of the kingdoms of Leon and Galicia as well as against the Muslim kingdoms in Andalusia. He became famous for his military prowess in these campaigns, and helped enlarge Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims while driving Sancho's brothers from their thrones. This, however, ended up putting him in a difficult position when suddenly, in 1072, Sancho was murdered and with no legitimate heir, leaving his recently ousted brother, Alfonso, as his only heir and ruler of the reunified empire. Although El Cid continued to serve the crown in the person of Alfonso, who was now Emperor of Spain, he lost his status in court and was held in suspicion. Finally, in 1081, he was ordered into exile.
Rodrigo Díaz found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he protected from the domination of Aragon and Barcelona, further bolstering his military record and reputation as a leader. He was also victorious in battles against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, Alfonso was defeated by Almoravids from North Africa, and he overcame his antagonism to talk El Cid into fighting for him again. Over the next several years El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. However, the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of al-Qadir – he responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094 and El Cid established an independent principality in the eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. He ruled over a pluralistic state with the popular support of both Christians and Muslims.
The final years of El Cid were spent in fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted the first major defeat on them in 1094 in the plains of Caurte outside Valencia and continued resisting them until his death. Although El Cid himself remained undefeated in Valencia, he suffered a tragedy when his only son and heir, Diego Rodríguez, died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid's death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she had to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102.
Long after his death, El Cid remains an idolised figure in Spain. The character and his name have been immortalized in plays, film, folk tales, songs, and videogames.