El Cid and also El Cid Campeador, is the name commonly used for the important Spanish knight and hero, Rodrigo (or Ruy) Díaz de Vivar (born in Vivar, Burgos, Spain circa 1045, died in Valencia, Spain in July 1099). He was born a lower nobleman, although his mother was a close relative of King Alfonso VI of Castile. As an adult his accomplishments earned him a standing equal to noblemen of higher birth, which brought him a great deal of resentment.
Don Rodrigo's (Don is an honorific, similar to Sir or Mr.) biography is one filled with adventure and intrigue, which has made him a popular subject for many writers and has led to his status as a legendary figure. He was unfairly exiled twice by the King of Castile, who deprived him of his property and illegally imprisoned his wife and daughters due to palace intrigues. The apocryphal tale of his journey into exile is told in "Cantar de Mio Cid", a cantar de gesta epic appearing shortly after his death; he reportedly marched stoically into exile with his soldiers and servants, and with tears in his eyes. He never fought back against his king as an exiled lord, which by law would have been his right. Instead, he made his living as a mercenary in the Reconquista wars. He served loyal and respectfully to some of the taifa rulers of Medieval Spain. The Moors respected and admired him, calling him "Al Sayiddi" (The welcome one) and "Sidi" (sir) which is the origin of his nickname, "El Cid".
Never once defeated in battle, El Cid is credited with having made a large contribution to the expulsion of Spain's Islamic conquerors. He conquered many cities in the east of Spain, and finally Valencia. After capturing it, El Cid ruled the territory around this major city, establishing what could have been called a kingdom but which he always called part of Castile, declaring the territory as belonging to his king. There the king allowed him to meet his wife and daughters, and they lived there until his death.
He was a cultivated man, having served the king as a judge. He kept in life a personal archive with copies of the letters he mailed and important diplomas he signed as part of his cooperation in the king's administration. During his campaigns he often ordered that books by classic Roman and Greek authors on military themes be read in loud voice to him and his troops, both for entertainment and inspiration during battle. El Cid's army had a novel approach to planning strategy as well, holding what might be called brainstorming sessions before each battle to discuss tactics. They frequently used unexpected strategies, engaging in what modern generals would call psychological warfare — waiting for the enemy to be paralyzed with terror and then attacking them suddenly, distracting the enemy with a small group of soldiers, etc. El Cid had a humble personality and frequently accepted or included suggestions from his troops. He remained open to input from his soldiers and to the possibility that he himself was capable of error.
The man who served him as his closest adviser was Minaya Alvar Fánez, a close relative.
El Cid's sword "Tizona" can still be seen in the Army Museum (Museo del Ejército) in Madrid. Soon after his death it became one of the most precious possessions of the Castilian royal family. In 1999, a small sample of the blade was subjected to metallurgical analysis which partially confirmed its provenance as probably having been made in Moorish Cordoba in the eleventh century, although the report does not specify whether the larger-scale composition of the blade identifies it as Damascus steel
His battle horse was called "Babieca".
His daughters married noblemen and his blood became a part of the foundation of the oldest noble families. It is said that the present heir to the French throne has family ties with El Cid, among many others.(said by whom? which person claiming the right to ascend to Louis throne?, copying to talk page)
- "The world of El Cid, Chronicles of the spanish reconquest", Simon Barton and Richard Fletcher, Manchester University Press. (Manchester, 2000). ISBN 0-71905225-4 hardback, ISBN 0-71905226-2 paperback. www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk
- "The Quest for El Cid", Richard Fletcher. ISBN 0195069552
- "El Cid histórico. Un estudio exhaustivo sobre el verdadero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar", Gonzalo Martínez Díez, Editorial Planeta (Spain, june 1999). ISBN 84-08-03161-9 www.editorial.planeta.es
- Fear, A. T. (trans.), "Lives of the Visigothic Fathers", Translated texts for historians, vol 26 (Liverpool, 1997).
- Melville, C. and A. Ubaydli (ed. and trans.), "Christians and Moors in Spain", vol. III, Arabic sources (711-1501) (Warminster, 1992).
- Menéndez Pidal, R. (ed.) "Cantar de Mio Cid", 3 vols (3rd edn, Madrid, 1954-6).
- Michael, I. "The poem of the Cid" (Manchester 1975).
- Wolf, K.B. (trans), "Conquerors and Chroniclers of Early Medieval Spain", Translated texts for historians, vol. 9, (Liverpool, 1990).