Monday, December 17, 2007

El Cid

C. 1043-1099
Military Leader

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (or Ruy Díaz de Vivar; also spelled Bivar), also known as El Campeador ("the Champion"), was a notable military leader and the national hero of Spain. His title of "the Cid" comes from a Spanish dialect of Arabic, sidi, meaning "sir" or "lord," and was a title he acquired during his lifetime. El Cid is the subject of many legends, stories, and poems, including the 12th-century epic El cantar de mío Cid ("The Song of the Cid").
Born a member of the minor nobility, Díaz was brought up at the court of Ferdinand I in the household of the king's eldest son, Sancho. When Sancho succeeded Ferdinand as King Sancho II in 1065, he appointed el Cid as commander of the royal troops and standard-bearer. In 1067 Sancho made war on his brother Alfonso, who had inherited Leon, and the Cid played an important part in the successful campaigns of his king.
This put Díaz in a difficult position when, in 1072, Sancho died without having fathered any children, leaving Alfonso as his only heir. However, though Díaz lost his position as standard-bearer, Alfonso allowed him to remain at court; and in July of 1074, the Cid married Jimena, Alfonso's niece. Still, his position at court was precarious, and he became regarded as a natural leader to those Castilians who weren't particularly happy about being governed by a king of Leon.
In 1079, while on a mission to Seville, Díaz encountered Count García Ordóñez, who had supplanted him as standard-bearer and who had become his bitter enemy. El Cid defeated the superior army and captured the count. In 1081, he led an unauthorized military raid into Toledo, a Moorish kingdom which was under Alfonso's protection. King Alfonso thereupon exiled Díaz, and although there were several attempts at reconciliation, never again was the Cid able to stay for very long in Alfonso's lands.
Díaz then offered his services to the Muslim ruler of Saragossa. The Cid served al-Mu'tamin and his successor, al-Musta'in II, loyally for almost a decade. He was victorious in battles against the Moorish king of Lérida and his 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 the Cid long enough to recall him from exile. Although his presence at Alfonso's court in July 1087 is documented, Díaz was soon back in Saragossa, and he did not participate in the ensuing conflict whereby the Almoravids threatened the survival of Christian Spain. Instead, the Cid began a long, complex political campaign to gain control of the wealthy Moorish kingdom of Valencia.
The Cid gradually increased his control over Valencia's ruler, al-Qadir, who became his tributary. When in October of 1092, Almoravids and the city's chief judge, Ibn Jahhaf, instigated an uprising which resulted in the death of al-Qadir, el Cid responded by laying siege to the city. The siege lasted a year and a half. By this time Díaz had established his own kingdom on the coast of the Mediterranean; he ruled it in the name of Alfonso, but in actual fact he was its independent ruler until his death in 1099.
Not long after his death, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar became the subject of an admiring biography, and soon thereafter the hero of the epic poem El cantar de mío Cid. The actual facts of his life and career were quickly obscured amidst his lionization as a national hero. Historians must turn to the few contemporary documents available, including the Arab historian Ibn 'Alqamah's detailed, eyewitness account of the Cid's conquest of Valencia.
The Song of the Cid (Poema del Cid or Cantar del Mio Cid) is the great epic of medieval Spain. It chronicles the life of Rodrigo (or Ruy) Diáz de Vivar, a commander under King Alfonso VI of Castile in the eleventh century.

Diáz de Vivar fought for Alfonso against the Moors, fought for the Moors against Alfonso, and conquered the Kingdom of Valencia for himself; he ruled there until his death. Even his title, El Cid Campeador, reflects his conflicting loyalities: "El Cid" is a Moorish title of respect, from Arabic al sayyid "Lord"; "Campeador" is Spanish for "Champion".

Like other historical tales whose heroes become the stuff of legends, poems, and ballads, the story of the Cid accreted fantastical details over the centuries. The film El Cid (1961), starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, won three Academy Awards.

There are several sources for the story of the Cid; Robert Southey's 1637 edition entitled The Chronicle of the Cid is based on the Chronica del Famoso Cavallero Cid Ruydiez Campeador (1552 and 1593), La Cronic de Espña, and what he calls Poema del Cid, an anonymous poem (c. 1207) preserved at Vivar; of the latter he says

The poem is to be considered as metrical history, not metrical romance. It was written before those fictions were invented which have been added to the history of the Cid, and which have made some authors discredit what there is not the slightest reason to doubt. I have preferred it to the Chronicles sometimes in point of fact, and always in point of costume; for as the historian of manners, this poet, whose name unfortunately has perished, is the Homer of Spain.

The Lay of the Cid is a translation of the Cantar del mio Cid, a poem written in the mid-twelfth century about the Castilian Hero, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, and relating events from his exile from Castile in 1081 until shortly before his death in 1099. Although the Cid accomplished the remarkable feats of capturing the rich Muslim kingdom of Valencia and holding it as his own, and being the first of the Christian leaders to defeat the Almoravides, a warlike band of zealots from North Africa, the poem concentrates upon his relationship with King Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile. Like many feudal epics, The Lay of the Cid portrays the breakdown of the vassal-lord relationship due to some shortcoming of the lord, the manner in which the vassal attempts to deal with this situation, and reaches a climax and resolution in a detailed account of a formal trial.

The Cid became a universal hero to the Spanish, and his history was elaborated by numerous ballads, legends, and other tales until the historical figure was completely obscured by this fanciful literature. The Cid was rescued from fiction by the Spanish Scholar Ramon Menendez Pidal, who devoted the entirety of his long life to uncovering the historical Cid and in portraying the Spain in which he lived.

El Cid - Catholic Encyclopedia

El Cid

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