Richard Melson

October 2006

El Cid

Statue of El Cid in Burgos.

El Cid

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Vivar c.1040Valencia, 10 July 1099), known as El Cid Campeador, was a petty Castilian nobleman, then military and political leader who conquered and governed the city of Valencia. Rodrigo Díaz was educated in the royal court of the Castile and became the alférez, or chief general, of Alfonso VI, fighting against the Moors in the early Reconquista. Later exiled by the king, El Cid left service in Castile and worked as a mercenary for other rulers, both Muslim and Christian.

The nickname "El Cid Campeador" is a compound of two separate sobriquets. "El Cid" is derived from the word al-sid in the Andalusi Arabic dialect (from the Arabic sayyid, "sir" or "lord," a title of respect), while the title el campeador (the champion) was granted by his Christian admirers and derives from the Latin campidoctor. These titles reflected the great esteem El Cid had among both Moors and Christians, as well as his fighting ability; Henry Edwards Watts wrote that el campeador "[m]eans in Spanish something more special than 'champion'.... A campeador was a man who had fought and beaten the select fighting-man of the opposite side in the presence of the two armies."

"El Cid" was pronounced /el tsið/ (IPA) in medieval Castilian, but /el ?ip/ in modern standard Spanish (the c like the th in "thin" and the d like the th in "then".)

Early life

The exact date of El Cid's birth is unknown. Based on his participation in 1063 at the Battle of Graus, however, most historians believe that El Cid was born between 1043 and 1045, in Vivar (Bivar), a small town about six miles north of Burgos, the capital of Castilla. Historical records show that El Cid's father was Diego Laínez, who was part of the minor nobility (infanzones) of Castile. Diego Laínez was a courtier, bureaucrat, and cavalryman who had fought in several battles. Despite the fact in later years the peasants would consider him one of their own, El Cid's mother's family was aristocratic. However, his relatives were not major court officials: documents show that El Cid's paternal grandfather, Lain Nuñez, only confirmed five documents of Ferdinand I's; his maternal grandfather, Rodrigo Alvarez, certified only two of Sancho II's; the Cid's own father confirmed only one. This seems to indicate that El Cid's family was not comprised of major court officials.

One well-known legend about the Cid describes how he acquired his famous war-horse, the white stallion Babieca. According to this story, Rodrigo's godfather, Pedro El Grande, was a monk at a Carthusian monastery. Pedro's coming-of-age gift to El Cid was his pick of a horse from an Andalusian herd. El Cid picked a horse that his godfather thought was a weak, poor choice, causing the monk to exclaim "Babieca!" (stupid!) Hence, it became the name of El Cid's horse. Today, Babieca appears in multiple works about El Cid.

El Cid was educated in the Castilian royal court, serving the prince and future king Sancho II, the son of King Ferdinand I (the Great). When Ferdinand died in 1065, Sancho continued his father's goal of enlarging his territory, conquering the Christian and the Moorish cities of Zamora and Badajoz.

By this time, the Cid was an adult. He had, in 1067, fought alongside Sancho against the Moorish stronghold of Zaragoza, making its emir al-Muqtadir a vassal of Sancho. In the spring of 1063, he fought in the Battle of Graus, where Ferdinand's half-brother, Ramiro I of Aragon, had laid siege to the Moorish town of Graus which was in Zaragozan lands. Al-Muqtadir, accompanied by Castilian troops including the Cid, fought against the Aragonese. The party would emerge victorious, Ramiro I was killed, and the Aragonese fled the field. One legend has said that during the conflict El Cid killed an Aragonese knight in single combat, giving him the honorific title of "El Cid Campeador".

Service under Alfonso

Much speculation abounds about Sancho's death. Most say that the assassination was a result of a pact between Alfonso and Urraca; some even say they had an incestuous relationship. In any case, since Sancho died unmarried and childless, all of his power passed to his brother, Alfonso—the very person he had fought against.

Almost immediately, Alfonso was recalled from exile in Toledo and took his seat as king of Leon and Castile. While he was deeply suspected in Castile (probably correctly) for being involved in Sancho's murder, According to the epic of El Cid the Castilian nobility, led by the Cid and a dozen "oath-helpers", forced Alfonso to swear publicly in front of St. Gadea's Church in Burgos on holy relics multiple times that he did not participate in the plot to kill his brother. This is widely reported as truth but contemporary documents on the lives of both Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon and Rodrigo Diaz do not mention any such event. This legend is believed because it adds to accounts of the Cid's bravery but there is no proof that it took place. The Cid's position as armiger regis was taken away, however, and it was given to the Cid's enemy, Count García Ordóñez. Later in the year, Alfonso's younger brother, García, returned to Galicia under the false pretenses of a conference.

Battle tactics

During his campaigns, the Cid often ordered that books by classic Roman and Greek authors on military themes be read in loud voices 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 his nephew, Alvar Fáñez de Minaya.

Marriage and family life

The Cid was married in July 1074 to Alfonso's kinswoman Jimena de Gormaz (spelled Ximena in Old Castilian), the daughter of the Count of Oviedo. This was probably on Alfonso's suggestion, a move that he probably hoped would improve relations between him and the Cid. Together the Cid and Ximena had three children. Their daughters, Cristina and María, both married high nobility; Cristina, to Ramiro, lord of Monzón, son of Sancho Garces, and bastard grandson of García V of Navarre; María, first to Infante of Aragon and second to Ramón Berenguer III, count of Barcelona. The Cid's son, Diego Rodríguez, was killed while fighting against the invading Muslim Almoravids from North Africa at the Battle of Consuegra (1097). His own marriage and that of his daughters increased his status by connecting the Cid to royalty; even today, living monarchs descend from El Cid, through the lines of Navarre and Foix. El Cid is an ancestor to the monarchies of France and Britain though his daughter Cristina's son, García VI of Navarre, as well as every other monarchy in Europe through the previous two. Through his daughter Cristina, he is a great(x7)-grandfather to Isabella of France, mother of Edward III of England.

Service as administrator

He was a cultivated man, having served Alfonso 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.


In the Battle of Cabra (1079), the Cid rallied his troops and turned the battle into a rout of Emir Abd Allah of Granada and his ally García Ordóñez. However, the Cid's unauthorized expedition into Granada greatly angered Alfonso, and May 8, 1080, was the last time the Cid confirmed a document in King Alfonso's court. This is the generally given reason for the Cid's exile, although several others are plausible and may have been contributing factors: jealous nobles turning Alfonso against the Cid, Alfonso's own animosity towards the Cid, an accusation of pocketing some of the tribute from Seville, and what one source describes as the Cid's "penchant" towards insulting powerful men.

However, the exile was not the end of the Cid, either physically or as an important figure. In 1081, the Cid, now a mercenary, offered his services to the Moorish king of the northeast Spanish city of Zaragoza, Yusuf al-Mutamin, and served both him and his successor, Al-Mustain II. O'Callaghan writes:

At first he went to Barcelona where Ramón Berenguer II (1076-1082) and Berenguer Ramón II (1076-1097), refused his offer of service. Then he journeyed to Zaragoza where he received a warmer welcome. That kingdom was divided between al-Mutamin (1081-1085) who ruled Zaragoza proper, and his brother al-Mundhir, who ruled Lérida and Tortosa. The Cid entered al-Mutamin's service and successfully defended Zaragoza against the assaults of al-Mutamdhir, Sancho I of Aragón, and Ramón Berenguer II, whom he held captive briefly in 1082.

In 1086, the great Almoravid invasion of Spain through and around Gibraltar began. The Almoravids, Berber residents of present-day Morocco and Algeria, led by Yusef I, also called Yusef ibn Tushafin or Yusef ibn Tashfin, were asked to help defend the Moors from Alfonso. A great battle took place on Friday, October 23, 1086, at Sagrajas (in Arabic, Zallaqa). The Moorish Andalusians, including the armies of Badajoz, Málaga, Granada, and Seville, defeating a combined army of León, Aragón, and Castile. According to Thomas:

The Andalusians encamped separately from the Murabitun. The Christian vanguard (Alvar Fañez) surprised the Andalusian camp before dawn; the men of Seville (Al-Mutamid) held firm but the remaining Andalusians were chased off by the Aragonese cavalry. The Christian main body then attacked the Murabitun, but were held in check by the Lamtuma, and then withdrew to their own camp in response to an outflanking move by ibn Tashufin. The Aragonese returned to the field, didn't like what they saw, and started a withdrawal that became a rout. The Andalusians rallied, and the Muslims drove Alfonso to a small hill. Alfonso and 500 knights escaped in the night to Toledo.

Terrified after his crushing defeat, Alfonso recalled the best Christian general from exile – the Cid. It has been shown that the Cid was at court on July 1087. However, what happened after that is unclear.

Conquest of Valencia

Around this time, the Cid, with a combined Christian and Moorish army, began maneuvering in order to create his own fiefdom in the Moorish Mediterranean coastal city of Valencia. Several obstacles lay in his way. First was Ramón Berenguer II, who ruled nearby Barcelona. In May 1090, the Cid defeated and captured Berenguer in the Battle of Tébar. Berenguer was later ransomed and his son, Ramón Berenguer III, married the Cid's youngest daughter Maria to ward against future conflicts.

The Cid gradually came to have more influence on Valencia, then ruled by al-Qadir. In October 1092 an uprising occurred in Valencia inspired by the city's chief judge, Ibn Jahhaf, and the Almoravids. The Cid began a siege of Valencia. The siege lasted several years; in December 1093 an attempt to break had failed. In May 1094, the siege ended, and the Cid had carved out his own kingdom on the coast of the Mediterranean. Officially the Cid ruled in the name of Alfonso; in reality, the Cid was fully independent. The city was both Christian and Muslim, and both Moors and Christians served in the army and as administrators. In 1096, Valencia's nine mosques were converted into churches; Jérôme, a French bishop, was appointed archbishop of the city.

On July 10, 1099, the Cid died in his home because he was shot by an arrow from an archer. Though his wife Jimena would continue to rule for two more years, an Almoravid siege forced Jimena to seek help from Alfonso. They could not hold the city but both managed to escape. Alfonso ordered the city burned to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Moors. Valencia was captured by Masdali on May 5, 1109 and would not become a Christian city again for over 125 years. Jimena fled to Burgos with the Cid's body. Originally buried in Castile in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, his body now lies at the center of the impressive Burgos Cathedral.


Legend has it that after El Cid died, his body was strapped to his horse and sent into battle by his wife, who realized that his troops would be defeated if they knew their leader was dead. The troops rallied, thinking that their leader was riding to fight beside them, and the enemy was so afraid of the invincible fighter that they retreated to their boats. Thus, El Cid is said to have won his final battle after his death.


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. And in 1999, a small sample of the blade underwent metallurgical analysis which partially confirmed that it was 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.

Origin of the Campeador title

Campeador is the Romance or Vulgar Latin version of the Latin campi doctor or campi doctus; the term can be found in writings of late Latinity (4th–5th century) and can be found in some inscriptions of that era. After that period it became rare, although still sometimes found in the writings of the less educated writers of the Middle Ages. The literal significance of the expression campi doctor is "master of the military arts", and its use in the period of the late Roman Empire appears to have signified only one who instructed new military recruits. But it was in current usage when El Cid was still alive, and was applied to Rodrigo by a member of his circle in an official document promulgated in his name in 1098.

El Cid in literature, film and other media

Literally dozens of works were written about the Cid. The oldest of the preserved manuscripts is the three-part Spanish cantar de gesta epic Cantar de Mio Cid, also called The Lay of the Cid, The Song of the Cid, or El Poema del Cid. This work may have also been one of the many sources for Don Quixote's early inspiration: despite his steed Rocinante being less than capable, Don Quixote believes him to be better than Babieca.

The Spanish old Romancero, the anonymous short poems based upon the epic poetry, preserved in the late Middle Ages the memory of El Cid and created new literary episodes on the topic. The French playwright Pierre Corneille wrote the tragicomedy Le Cid in 1636, based on the play of Guillén de Castro, Las Mocedades del Cid. Jules (Émile Frédéric) Massenet's 1885 opera Le Cid is a favorite of Plácido Domingo, who has sung the role of Rodrigue (Rodrigo) many times since first performing it at Carnegie Hall in 1976. [1]

There have been modern-day films about the Cid, such as El Cid (1961, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren) and the animated El Cid (La Leyenda) (2003). In the early 80s, there was an animated series called Ruy, el Pequeño Cid, portraying the fictional adventures of El Cid as a child.

In Oz, an HBO TV show, the gang leader Raoul Hernandez is referred to as "El Cid" because of his leadership skills.

The Guy Gavriel Kay fantasy novel The Lions of Al-Rassan, set in an alternate universe version of medieval Spain, features Rodrigo, a main character who is clearly modeled on El Cid.

Age of Empires II: The Conquerors has a campaign featuring El Cid as a playable character.

In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, there is a sword called the El Cid Sword.

In the game Medieval: Total War, El Cid was a general who could be bribed in the province of Valencia, as one of the most useful generals in the game.

See also


External links

Retrieved from ""

Map showing the extent of the Almoravid empire


Almoravides (In Arabic al-Murabitun, sing. Murabit), was a Berber dynasty from the Sahara that flourished over a wide area of Africa and Europe during the 11th century.

Under this dynasty the Moorish empire was extended over Morocco, Mauritania, Gibraltar, Tlemcen (in modern Algeria) and a great part of what is now Senegal and Mali in the south, and Spain and Portugal in the north.

The exact meaning of "Murabit" is still a matter of controversy. The name may or may not be derived from the Arabic ribat, or fortress, a term with which it shares the root r-b-t.


The most powerful of the tribes of the Sahara, south of the river Dra to the Senegal river was the Lamtuna, whose region of origin was 'Wadi Noun' (Nul Lemta), South Morocco. They later spread as far as the upper Niger River region, where they founded the city of Aoudaghost. In many respects they resembled their eastern neighbours the Tuareg (originally called Tarka and - like the Lamtuna - a sub-tribe of the Sanhadja). They had been converted to Islam in the 7th century, but their adherence to Islam did not go very far and most of them did not follow the traditions of Shariah, or Islamic law.

Influence of orthodox Islam

About the year 1040 (or a little earlier) one of their chiefs, Yahya ibn Ibrahim, made the pilgrimage to Mecca. On his way home, he attended the teachers of the mosque at Kairouan, in Tunisia, who soon learnt from him that his people knew little of the religion they were supposed to profess, and that though his will was good, his own ignorance was great. By the good offices of the theologians of Kairawan, one of whom was from Fez, Yahya was provided with a missionary, Abd Allah ibn Yasin, a zealous partisan of the Malikis, one of the four Madhhab; orthodox legal schools of Islam.

His preaching was before-long rejected by the Lamtunas; so on the advice of Yahya, who accompanied him, he retired to the Western Sahara, where he founded a ribat, or Islamic monastery, from which as a centre his influence spread. There was no element of heresy in his creed, which was mainly distinguished by a strict obedience to the letter of the Qur'an, and the orthodox tradition or Sunnah.

Ascendence of Militarism

Abd-Allah ibn Yasin imposed a penitential scourging on all converts as a purification, and enforced a regular system of discipline for every breach of the law; even on the chiefs. Under such directions, the Almoravids were brought into excellent order. Their first military leader, Yahya ibn Ibrahim, gave them a good military organization. Their main force was infantry, armed with javelins in the front ranks and pikes behind, which formed into a phalanx; and was supported by camelmen and horsemen on the flanks.

Military Successes

From the year 1053, the Almoravids began to impose their orthodox and puritanical religion on the Berber tribes of the desert, and on the pagan black Africans. They converted Takrur (a small state in modern Senegal) to Islam, and after winning over the Sanhaja Berber tribe, they quickly took control of the entire desert trade route, seizing Sijilmasa from Morocco at the northern end in 1054, and Aoudaghost from the Ghana Empire at the southern end in 1055. Yahya ibn Ibrahim was killed in a battle in 1056, but Abd-Allah ibn Yasin, whose influence as a religious teacher was paramount; named his brother Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar as chief. Under him, the Almoravids soon began to spread their power beyond the desert, and subjected the tribes of the Atlas Mountains. They then came in contact with the Berghouata, a Berber people of central Morocco, who followed a "heresy" founded by Salih ibn Tarif, three centuries earlier. The Berghouata made a fierce resistance, and it was in battle with them that Abdullah ibn Yasin was killed. They were, however, completely conquered by Abu Bakr Ibn-Umar, who took the defeated chief's widow, Zainab, as a wife.

In 1061, Abu Bakr Ibn-Umar made a division of the power he had established, handing over the more-settled parts to his cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin, as viceroy; resigning to him also his favourite wife Zainab, who had the reputation of being a sorceress. For himself, he reserved the task of suppressing the revolts which had broken out in the desert, but when he returned to resume control, he found his cousin too powerful to be superseded; so he had to go back to the Sahara, where-in 1087,having been wounded with a poisoned arrow, he died fighting the pagan black Africans.

Morocco, West Algeria and Western Sahara

Yusuf ibn Tashfin had in the meantime brought what is now known as Morocco and the Western Sahara into complete subjection; and in 1062, had founded the city of Marrakech. In 1080, he conquered the kingdom of Tlemcen (in modern-day Algeria) and founded the present city of that name, his rule extending as far east as Oran.

Ghana Empire

In 1075, the Almoravids declared war on the Ghana Empire. According to Arab tradition, the ensuing war pushed Ghana over the edge, ending the kingdom's position as a commercial and military power by 1100, as it collapsed into tribal groups and chieftaincies, some of which later assimilated into the Almoravides while others founded the Mali Empire. Other interpretations are that the Almoravid influence was gradual and did not involve any form of military takeover, as Almoravids increased in power by marrying among the nation's nobility.

Iberian Peninsula

In 1086 Yusuf ibn Tashfin was invited by the Muslim princes in the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) to defend them against Alfonso VI, King of Castile and León. In that year, Yusuf ibn Tashfin passed the straits to Algeciras, inflicted a severe defeat on the Christians at the az-Zallaqah. He was prevented from following up his victory by trouble in Africa, which he had to settle in person.

When he returned to Iberia in 1090, it was avowedly for the purpose of deposing the Muslim princes, and annexing their states. He had in his favour the mass of the inhabitants, whom had been worn out by the oppressive taxation imposed by their spend-thrift rulers. Their religious teachers, as well as others in the east, (most notably, al-Ghazali in Persia and al-Tartushi in Egypt, who was himself an Iberian by birth, from Tortosa), detested the native Muslim princes for their religious indifference, and gave Yusuf a fatwa -- or legal opinion -- to the effect that he had good moral and religious right, to dethrone the heterodox rulers, who did not scruple to seek help from the Christians, whose habits they had adopted. By 1094, he had removed them all, except for the one at Zaragoza; and though he regained little from the Christians except Valencia, he re-united the Muslim power, and gave a check to the reconquest of the country by the Christians.

The Prince of the Muslims

After friendly correspondence with the caliph at Baghdad, whom he acknowledged as Amir al-Mu'minin (Prince of the Faithful), Yusuf ibn Tashfin in 1097 assumed the title of Amir al Muslimin (Prince of the Muslims). He died in 1106, when he was reputed to have reached the age of 100.

The Almoravid power was at its height at Yusuf's death, and the Moorish empire then included all North-West Africa as far as Algiers, and all of Iberia south of the Tagus, with the east coast as far as the mouth of the Ebro, and included the Balearic Islands.


Three years afterwards, under Yusef's son and successor, Ali ibn Yusuf, Sintra and Santarém were added, and Iberia was again invaded in 1119 and 1121, but the tide had turned; the French having assisted the Aragonese to recover Zaragoza. In 1138, Ali ibn Yusuf was defeated by Alfonso VII of Castile and León, and in the Battle of Ourique (1139), by Afonso I of Portugal, who thereby won his crown; and Lisbon was recovered by the Portuguese in 1147.

Ali ibn Yusuf was a pious non-entity, who fasted and prayed while his empire fell to pieces under the combined action of his Christian foes in Iberia and the agitation of Almohades (the Muwahhids) in Morocco. After Ali ibn Yusuf's death in 1142, his son Tashfin ibn Ali lost ground rapidly before the Almohades, and in 1146 he was killed by a fall from a precipice, while endeavouring to escape after a defeat near Oran.

His two successors Ibrahim ibn Tashfin and Is'haq ibn Ali are mere names. The conquest of the city of Marrakesh by the Almohades in 1147 marked the fall of the dynasty, though fragments of the Almoravids (the Banu Ghanya), continued to struggle in the Balearic Islands, and finally in Tunisia.

Interestingly, family names such as Morabito, Murabito and Mirabito are common in western Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and southern Calabria in Italy. These names may have appeared in this region as early as the 11th century, when Robert Guiscard and the Normans defeated the Saracens (Muslims) in Sicily. In addition to southern Italy, there are also sizable populations of Mourabit (also spelled Murabit) in modern-day Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania.

The amirs of the Almoravid dynasty were as follows:

See also

External links


Pre-Spanish Rulers of Zaragoza

Banu Tujibi

Al-Mundhir I ibn Yahya al-Tujibi - Yahya ibn al-Mundhir - Al-Mundhir II ibn Yahya ibn al-Mundhir - Abd Allah ibn al-Hakam al-Tjibi

Banu Hud

Al-Mustain I, Sulayman ibn Hud al-Judhami - Ahmad ibn Sulayman al-Muqtadir - Yusuf ibn Ahmad al-Mutamin - Al-Mustain II, Ahmad ibn Yusuf



Map of Iberia at the time of the Almoravid arrival


In the 1961 movie, "El Cid," Herbert Lom, who plays the veiled and swarthy and fanatical Moorish Almoravid invader "Ben Yussuf,"(Ali ibn Yusuf?) with the violent body language and flashing eyes,  was Jewish:

Herbert Lom an international film actor. He was born Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru in Prague to upper-class Jewish parents on the 11 September 1917.