Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, AD1045(?) - AD1099. Known as El Cid Campeador.
"El Cid" derives from a Spanish dialect of Arabic, and means "sir" or "lord", while "campeador" is Spanish for "champion", specifically a champion who has defeated the enemy's strong-man in the presence of both armies.
The Lay of the Cid is, along with Don Quixote, one of the masterpieces of Spanish literature. The historical accuracy of the document is strongly in question, but the poetry and narrative is reputedly fantastic. As such, knowing the true historical character of El Cid is somewhat difficult, the original man being shrouded in centuries if legend.
El Cid's history is rather mottled, and separating myth from history is difficult. If you read the Catholic Encyclopedia article, little mention is made of the fact that El Cid was at one point banished from the court of Alfonso of Castille and spent several years as a soldier of fortune, offering his services to Christian and Moor alike. However, it would seem that his ultimate loyalty was indeed to Spain, for when Alfonso recalled him from exile, El Cid returned.
El Cid is responsible for the Spanish reconquest of Valencia in 1094. He ruled a small kingdom centered around that city until his death in 1099. Unfortunately, Spanish forces were unable to hold the territory for more than a few years after his death, and beginning in 1109, would spend another 125 years under Moorish domination.
Why do I call El Cid a hero when he fought for both sides and managed no lasting conquests? Because his life and work created a legend that inspired the Spanish people to continue the Reconquista for the next four centuries. As they were inspired by the legend rather than the history, the details of his actual story become less important. Either way, the significance of El Cid in Spanish culture is hard to overestimate.
El Cid is buried at Burgos cathedral in Spain. His sword, Tizona, is one of Spain's most treasured relics.Posted by ryan at October 29, 2004 08:46 AM | TrackBack