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El Cid: Christian Champion or Mercenary for the Moors?

El Cid: Christian Champion or Mercenary for the Moors?


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Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, more commonly known as El Cid, was an 11 th century Spanish knight, military leader and mercenary. This larger-than-life-figure is celebrated as a champion of Christianity during the Spanish Reconquista . While its often hard to separate fact from fiction, the reality of his life was rather more complex. After being exiled from Alfonso VI’s court, he went on to offer his military skills to the highest bidder, serving both Christian and Muslim rulers throughout his lifetime.

A young Rodrigo Díaz showing his father, Diego Laínez, the severed head of Count Lozano, father of his future wife Doña Jimena, in a painting by Juan Vicens Cots.

What’s in a Name? On Becoming El Cid Campeador

The name El Cid is in fact a title, and one that was probably given to Rodrigo by the Arabs. It has been speculated that the title has its origins in the Arabic al-Sayyid, meaning “the Lord.” The Castilians, on the other hand, referred to him as El Campeador , meaning “the champion.” Sometimes the two titles are combined to form El Cid Campeador .

Born around 1040 in Vivar, a small village in the north of Spain not far from the city of Burgos, El Cid’s real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. According to the historical records, El Cid’s father was Diego Laínez, a minor noble of the Kingdom of Castile. Laínez is known to have been a courtier, a bureaucrat, and to have fought in several battles as a cavalryman. Curiously, the name of El Cid’s mother is lost to history. It is known, however, that she was from an aristocratic family. Additionally, she is recorded to have been a niece of Nuño Alvarez de Carazo, a Castilian diplomat, and his wife, Doña Godo.

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Although El Cid’s family served as court officials, it seems that they were only minor functionaries. This is seen, for instance, in the fact that his father only confirmed one document, his maternal grandfather two, and his paternal grandfather only five. As members of the nobility, however, El Cid’s family enjoyed certain privileges. For instance, El Cid received his early education at the Castilian court, where he was in the service of Sancho II, the son of Ferdinand the Great, and the future King of Castile. El Cid learned to read and write, and received training in the use of arms, horsemanship, and the art of the chase.

The famous Santa Gadea Oath, where Alfonso VI (seen here with a red cape) swore on the Bible that he was not involved in the assassination of his brother Sancho II, with El Cid standing as witness.

After Ferdinand’s Death? Division between brothers. Sibling Rivalry.

Ferdinand’s death in 1065 caused the division of his kingdom, as it was divided between his three sons. Sancho, as the eldest son, received the Kingdom of Castile while his two brothers, Alfonso (who later became Alfonso VI) and García, received Léon and Galicia respectively. Sancho, however, believed that his father’s kingdom should not have been divided, and that as the eldest son he should have inherited the entire kingdom.

Consequently, the three brothers waged war against each other, and El Cid, as a vassal of Sancho, supported and fought for him. Some are of the opinion that it was during this time that El Cid received his first military appointment, as standard-bearer, a position that gave him command over the Castilian troops.

By early 1072, Sancho had defeated both his brothers, who fled to the courts of the Muslims for refuge. Sancho did not live long to savor his victories however, as he was assassinated in October 1072, when he was besieging the city of Zamora, which was held by Urraca, his sister. There has been lots of speculation regarding Sancho’s untimely death.

The most widely held view is that Sancho’s murder was orchestrated by Alfonso and Urraca. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Alfonso and Urraca were in an incestuous relationship. In any case, the person who benefitted most from Sancho’s death was Alfonso, who inherited the kingdom, since Sancho died childless.

According to one legend, the Castilian nobility, led by El Cid and a dozen oath-helpers, forced Alfonso to swear publicly in front of Saint Gadea’s Church in Burgos on holy relics multiple times that he was not involved in Sancho’s assassination. Although this incident is recorded in the literary sources of El Cid’s life, it is likely to have been a fictional event, since it is not mentioned in contemporary historical documents related to the lives of both Alfonso and El Cid. Nevertheless, the story is widely believed, and serves to illustrate El Cid’s courage.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (El Cid) married Jimena Díaz in 1074.

El Cid and His Marriage to Doña Jimena Díaz

The succession of Sancho by Alfonso did not bode well for El Cid, as the knight was relieved of his position of standard bearer. Yet, Alfonso was probably aware of El Cid’s capabilities as a military leader, and sought to improve their relationship. In 1074, El Cid was married to Jimena Díaz, the daughter of the Count of Oviedo, and a relative of Alfonso himself. The marriage may have been Alfonso’s idea, and was probably aimed at mending his relationship with El Cid.

Once again, we find the entanglement of fact and fiction. An alternate version of events, based on a 14 th century romance, claims that El Cid had killed Jimena’s father in battle, after which she went to Ferdinand’s court to seek redress. This was denied by the king, so Jimena requested El Cid’s hand in marriage instead, which was granted by the king. This fanciful story is unlikely to be true, since Ferdinand had died in 1065, nine years before the marriage took place.

El Cid and Jimena are recorded to have had three children – Cristina, Maria, and Diego Rodríguez. Both of El Cid’s daughters married into the families of high nobility. As a result of these marriages, El Cid’s social status increased even further. His son, on the other hand, is recorded to have been killed at the Battle of Consuegra in 1097, whilst fighting against the Muslim Almoravids who were invading from North Africa.

In the fictionalized epic poem El Cantar de mio Cid, the king arranged for El Cid’s daughters to marry the princes of Carrión, but they beat them and left them for dead. The king forces the princes to return the dowry and El Cid’s daughters are married to the crown princes of Navarre and Aragon.

Exile from Alfonso’s Court and Becoming a Mercenary

Interestingly, although El Cid is best remembered as a warrior and military leader, he had also served Alfonso as an administrator. He was a judge, and kept a personal archive which contained copies of the letters he mailed, and important diplomas he signed whilst serving in Alfonso’s administration. The cordial relations between El Cid and Alfonso, however, did not last. In 1079, El Cid participated in the Battle of Cabra, which was fought between Granada and Seville, two Muslim states. Although El Cid gained victory for his side, his unauthorized expedition did not sit well at all with Alfonso, thereby leading to his exile.

Although this is the most commonly accepted reason for El Cid’s exile, there may have been other factors as well. For instance, El Cid’s ascent at Alfonso’s court may have roused the jealousy of other nobles, who then persuaded Alfonso to exile El Cid. It is also plausible that Alfonso still bore a grudge against El Cid, since he had been, after all, a supporter of his brother, Sancho. It has also been claimed that El Cid was accused of pocketing some of the tribute form Seville, and that he had a tendency to insult powerful men.

As a consequence of his exile, El Cid became a mercenary, and was willing to serve both Christian and Muslim rulers, so long as they paid him. In 1081, for example, El Cid came into the service of Yusuf al-Mutamin, who ruled over the Taifa of Zaragoza, one of the Muslim principalities. Prior to that, he had offered his services to Ramón Berenguer II and Berenguer Ramón II, the twin rulers of Barcelona. When his services were refused by the counts, El Cid went to Zaragoza, and found employment with al-Mutamin.

Incidentally, in 1067, El Cid, whilst still in the service of Sancho, besieged Zaragoza, which was ruled by al-Mutamin’s father and predecessor, al-Muqtadir. The ruler of Zaragoza was defeated, and became a vassal of Sancho. In any case, El Cid served his new master well, as he successfully defended Zaragoza against the attacks of al-Mutamdhir, Sancho I of Aragón, and Ramón Berenguer II.

The conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI in May 1085 as depicted at a ceramic bench in the Plaza de España of Seville. (CarlosVdeHabsburgo / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Return to Alfonso’s Court. But Why?

Surprisingly, by 1087 El Cid was in Alfonso’s court once more. The previous year the Almoravids had invaded Spain in response to a desperate plea for help from the Muslim ruler of Seville. Whilst El Cid was serving as a mercenary in Zaragoza, Alfonso was busy strengthening his kingdom. Alfonso had grown so strong that he was able to extract heavy tribute from the various Muslim taifas, in exchange for protection against their other enemies.

Alfonso’s long-term plan was to weaken these Muslim states by draining their wealth, so that they would eventually surrender their independence to the Castilians without a fight. The tributes demanded by Alfonso caused the Muslim rulers of Spain to tax their subjects heavily, which in turn caused popular discontent amongst the common people. This instability had dire consequences for the taifas, as evident in the surrender of Toledo to Alfonso in May 1085.

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In his desperation al-Mu’tamid, the ruler of Seville, sought help from Yusef I, the Almoravid ruler. On the 23 rd of October 1086, the Almoravids and their Moorish allies defeated Alfonso at the Battle of Sagrajas (or Zallaqa in Arabic). The Christians were so decisively defeated that Alfonso was able to escape with only 500 knights. This defeat terrified Alfonso so much that he summoned El Cid back to his court.

The events following El Cid’s return to Alfonso’s court are unclear. It is known, however, that he did not remain at Alfonso’s court for long, as he went back to Zaragoza shortly after his return to Castile. Moreover, El Cid did not help Alfonso in his war against the Almoravids, even when it looked as though the latter were on the verge of conquering the whole of Christian Spain. Most importantly, El Cid had plans of his own – to conquer Valencia for himself.

After his conquest of Valencia in 1094, El Cid ordered the execution of Ibn Jahhaf and Almoravid allies. ( Erica Guilane-Nachez / Adobe Stock)

El Cid’s Conquest of Valencia from Almoravid Rule

At that time, Valencia was under Muslim rule. In fact, the city had been in Muslim hands since the 8 th century AD. Nevertheless, during the late 11 th century, the taifa was under the influence of the counts of Barcelona and this was the first obstacle to El Cid’s plan to make himself master of Valencia. In May 1090, El Cid defeated and captured Ramón Berenguer II at the Battle of Tébar. Later on, Ramón Berenguer II’s son, Ramón Berenguer III, married El Cid’s daughter, Maria. These actions weakened the influence of Barcelona on Valencia, and prevented future conflicts between El Cid and Barcelona.

With the Count of Barcelona out of the way, El Cid could tighten his grip on Valencia. In 1092, Ibn Jahhaf, the chief judge of Valencia, rebelled against his master al-Qadir and killed him. Ibn Jahhaf had the support of the Almoravids. El Cid seized the opportunity to besiege Valencia. The city held out until May 1094 before Ibn Jahhaf surrendered to El Cid. In order to persuade the former chief judge to surrender, El Cid made a pact with him, making him believe that he would not be punished for his rebellion and murder of al-Qadir. When Ibn Jahhaf surrendered, however, he was arrested, and ordered to be burned alive.

El Cid was now the ruler of Valencia, and he ruled the city until his death in 1099. Although he was nominally holding Valencia for Alfonso, El Cid was in fact an independent ruler in all but name. The Almoravids tried to remove El Cid from Valencia in 1094 and 1097, but failed on both occasions. According to one legend, the Almoravids decided to attack Valencia again when the heard that El Cid had died. Jimena, who had succeeded her husband, had El Cid’s body strapped onto his horse, and ridden into battle. When the enemy saw that El Cid was actually still “alive,” they were filled with terror and left the battlefield. Three years after El Cid’s death, however, Valencia was recaptured by the Muslims.

El Cid was originally buried in the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña in Castile. Later on, however, he was re-interred in the Cathedral of Burgos, where he still lies today. El Cid is arguably one of Spain’s most famous figures, and his life and legend has been adapted in various media, including literary works, poems, epics, play, and in more recent times, films, animations, and video games.


El Cid: The Iconic Warrior who Inspired a 1960s Hollywood Movie

The figure of the valiant knight was the foundation for one of the earliest testimonies of Spanish national literature in the form of the “Cantar de mio Cid” (“Song of my Cid”), written around AD 1235. It was inspired by the life of the Castilian nobleman Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, called “El Cid,” and describes the deeds of an exemplary knight, “who took his sword in the hour of need.”

It is said that El Cid never lost a battle, even in death! He fought for his beliefs and for the freedom of the Iberian Peninsula from the iron grasp of the Moorish invaders in the 11th century. He was the spark that started the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors, which ended with the fall of the Spanish town of Grenada in 1492.

In more recent times, El Cid was the title of the 1960s blockbuster Hollywood movie starring Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston. This is a marvelous cinematic depiction that captures this hero of Spain’s epic tale, from the moment of his first victories against the Moors until his death while defending the city of Valencia.

Very delicate foggy solar coronae is seen over the statue of Ruy Diaz de Vivar in San Francisco. original Statue of El Cid, by Anna Hyatt Huntington
Photo: Brocken Inaglory CC BY-SA 3.0

Throughout his life, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar achieved immortal glory and honor. He founded a dynasty that was almost on a par with that of a royal family. However, the real historical El Cid was not always as generous and as flawless as literature and songs would want us to believe.

Spain was an unfortunate and torn country by the end of the 11th century. In the north, the Christian kingdoms of Castile, Aragón and Navarra fought against each other. In the south, which was called “al-Andalus” – the Arab emirates of Granada, Toledo, Valencia, Cordoba, and Zaragoza – it was the same.

First paragraph of the Carmen Campidoctoris, the earliest literary treatment of El Cid’s life, written to celebrate El Cid’s defeat of some counts and champions Photo by Infinauta -CC BY-SA 3.0

Everyone fought against everyone else. It wasn’t just Moors against Christians, as is often assumed, but Christian against Christian and Moor against Moor.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, the son of Castilian nobility, was born into this ambivalent situation in 1045. He served as a warrior to his king Fernando I, conquered the city of Calahorra, became “Alférez Mayor” (standard bearer) at an early age, and became the first knight of Castile like his father before him.

Ferdinand (left) and his wife Sancha, from an illumination in a contemporary manuscript.

At the beginning of October in the year 1072, something remarkable happened at Castile’s capital of Burgos. Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, the royal standard-bearer, refused to fulfill his pledge of allegiance to the new King Alfonso VI unless the monarch swore an oath on the Bible three times that he was not involved in the murder of Sancho, his own brother.

Trembling with rage, Alfonso responded to his subject’s humiliating request, but he never forgave the knight for his actions that day. It was the birth of bitter enmity and the legend of El Cid.

Marcos Giráldez de Acosta painting (1864) depicting the “Santa Gadea Oath”. In the middle of the scene, Alfonso VI (with red cape) is swearing with his right hand on the Bible that he did not take part in the murder of his brother Sancho II, while El Cid stands as a witness in front of him.

El Cid and Sancho II were close.

Backing up several years: after Fernando I died in 1065, his eldest son Sancho II, a personal friend of Rodrigo, succeeded him. The latter not only fought in countless battles by Sancho’s side but also acted as his legal advisor. Unlike many knights of the time, Rodrigo was able to read and write, and even spoke numerous foreign languages.

His martial glory overshadowed all this. He did not lose a single fight the Moors respectfully called him “al-Sayyid” (the Lord or Leader), which later became the more famous title of “El Cid.” The Spaniards, however, always spoke of “El Campeador” (the Fighter).

Sancho II of Leon and Castile

In 1072 King Sancho II was assassinated during the siege of the Fortress of Zamora. Some historical evidence suggests that his ambitious brother, Alfonso, was directly involved in the alleged fratricide, or at the very least knew about the murder plot.

And it was because of this suspicion that El Cid demanded that Alfonso swear on the Bible that he had had no hand in the murder plot. The newly crowned King Alfonso VI bore a deep grudge against the Spanish nobleman ever since that day.

However, at first Alfonso was in no position to harm the popular knight. He even went so far as to allow Rodrigo to marry a distant relative of the royal family, Jimena de Oviedo.

Alfonso VI

Finally, in the year 1081, King Alfonso VI had his long sought-after excuse to rob his royal standard-bearer of all of his possessions and titles, and ultimately the country of his allegiance. After that, El Cid allegedly swore not to shave until he was pardoned. All he had left were his leadership qualities and the loyalty of his men.

As a free warrior, he formally entered the service of al-Mutamin, Emir of Zaragoza, and joined forces with his general, Minaya Albarfañez, along with several hundred knightly mercenaries. On his white warhorse “Babieca,” El Cid fought Mutamin’s rebellious brother and, if necessary, Christian troops.

El Cid ordering the execution of Almoravid allies after his conquest of Valencia in 1094

In 1085 a decisive turn came. Castilian knights conquered Toledo, one of the most important cities in Spain. Alarmed by this, the Moorish emirs made a fatal mistake. They requested aid from the North African Almoravids, who were fanatical and tightly organized Islamic religious warriors.

These black-clad Berbers from today’s Morocco were only too happy to accept the invitation. They landed in Spain in 1086 in full force and inflicted a heavy defeat on King Alfonso near Sagrajas.

Only El Cid could defeat the Moors and their leader, Yusuf ibn Tashfin.

The Almoravids soon occupied important strategic bases, disempowered the local rulers, and even threatened the Castilian heartland. Now only El Cid could help.

“Tizona”, the sword attributed to El Cid, on exhibit in the Army Museum of Madrid .

With his armored knights, he beat the numerically superior Almoravids in several battles and captured more than 500 horses. “He killed many Moors, he left few alive, because the persecution went on without ceasing” according to the song “Cantar de mio Cid.”

After the greatest danger was over, Rodrigo decided to wage war on his own accord. He was obsessed with the idea of a united Spain, the fight against the Moors, and Christian cultural supremacy on the Iberian Peninsula. In 1093 he moved his army to the gates of the city of Valencia, which is located on the Mediterranean coast.

El Cid The last battle Photo: Gilberto Gomes CC BY-SA 1.0

During the ensuing battle, he allegedly struck down Fariz, the Almoravid commander, with his one-meter long broadsword “La Tizona.” The stroke was so powerful that the rubies on the Berber’s helmet jumped out of their sockets, and his entire body from his head to the right hip was split open.

Valencia capitulated in June 1094. Legend claims that El Cid offered the crown of the city to his former master Alfonso of Castile. In reality, he did not think of handing over his precious conquest to a man who had dishonored and expropriated him.

Battle of Quart de Poblet (21 October 1094). El Cid’s troops are in green, Almoravids troops are in red. Photo: Icone chateau fort.svg: Lilyu Blason Sainte-Gemmes-le-Robert 53.svg: Manassas File:Batalla de Cuarte (1094).jpg: Escarlati CC BY SA 4.0

Instead, Rodrigo ruled as the city’s “Lord and Supreme Judge.” He gained very little popularity among the Muslim population there because of his severity and greed.

He created an independent principality for himself, detached from the temporal protection of the King of Castile and the ecclesiastical teaching of the Archbishop of Toledo. He continued to successfully defend the virtually continuously besieged town and repulsed an Almoravid relief army at the Battle of Cuarte.

Tomb of El Cid and his wife Doña Jimena at the Burgos Cathedral

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar died in July 1099. His death is not attributed to a Moorish arrow wound, as the classic 1961 film starring Charlton Heston suggests. Rather, he died quite unspectacularly in his bed, apparently due to malnourishment caused by the siege.

His wife transferred the mortal remains of El Cid to his native Castile. His body rests in the cathedral of Burgos to this day – but it was not laid to rest before his wife, Jimena, dressed his corpse in full armor and sat him on his horse to face the enemy one last time.

If the legend has some truth, then El Cid’s body inspired his men and led them to victory that one last time – so that even in death, he surpassed living men with his nobility.


Epic World History

He was born at Vivar, near Burgos, in the kingdom of Castile his father a minor Castilian nobleman, but his mother was well connected and ensured that from a young age he attended the court of King Ferdinand I as a member of the household of king’s eldest son, Sancho.

When Sancho succeeded his father as King Sancho II of Castile, he appointed the 22-year-old Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar as his standard bearer as he had already achieved a reputation for valor in battle, taking part in the Battle of Graus in 1063. When Sancho attacked Sargasso in 1067, Rodrigo accompanied him and took part in the negotiations that led the ruler of Sargasso, al-Muqtadir, to acknowledge the overlordship of Sancho.


In 1067 Sancho went to war with his brother Alfonso VI, who had been left the kingdom of León. Some ballads portray El Cid as unwilling to support this invasion, which went against the will of Ferdinand I, but he was likely a willing participant. During the following five years El Cid was a vital military leader on behalf of Sancho. Sancho was killed when laying siege to Zamora. Alfonso, deposed from León, was the heir, and the new king found himself in a difficult political position.

Count García Ordóñez, a bitter enemy of El Cid, became the new standard bearer, but El Cid was able to remain at court, as Alfonso did not want such a tough opponent. It was probably Alfonso who planned the marriage of El Cid to Jimena, daughter of the count of Oviedo. They had a son, Diego Rodriguez, and two daughters. In 1097 Diego was killed in battle in North Africa.

Castilians who had supported Sancho were naturally nervous about Alfonso’s becoming king, and these simmering resentments began to be expressed through El Cid, who served as a conduit for them. In 1079 El Cid was sent to Seville on a mission to the Moorish king.

Coinciding with this trip, García Ordóñez aided Granada in their attack on Seville, but El Cid defeated the forces from Granada at Cabra, capturing García Ordóñez. His easy victory gained him enemies at court. When El Cid attacked the Moors in Toledo (who were allied to Alfonso), the king exiled him, and although he returned some years later, he was never able to remain for long.

El Cid went to work for the Moorish king of Sargasso, serving him and his successor for several years. This gave him a better understanding of Muslim law, which would help him in his later career. In 1082 he led the forces of Sargasso to victory over the Moorish king of Lérida and the count of Barcelona two years later, undefeated in battle, he defeated the forces of the king of Aragon, Sancho Ramirez. When the Almoravids from Morocco invaded Spain in 1086 and defeated Alfonso’s army, the two were briefly reconciled but soon afterward El Cid returned to Sargasso and did not help prevent the Christians from being overwhelmed.

Instead El Cid focused his attention on becoming the ruler of Valencia. This required political machinations and El Cid had to reduce the influence of other neighboring rulers. The importance of the counts of Barcelona came to an end when Ramon Berenguer II’s forces were decisively defeated at Tebar in May 1090 by El Cid’s Christian and Moorish forces.

El Cid then utilized loopholes in Muslim law when Ibn Jahhaf killed al-Qadir, the ruler of Valencia. He besieged the city, which was controlled by Ibn Jahhaf, and when an Almoravid attempt to lift the siege in December 1093 failed, the city realized it could not hold out for much longer, and in May 1094 it surrendered.


El Cid then proclaimed himself the ruler of Valencia, serving as the chief magistrate and governing for both Christians and Muslims. In law El Cid still owed fealty to Alfonso VI, but in practice he was totally independent of the king. El Cid’s victories encouraged many Christians to move to Valencia and a bishop was appointed. El Cid ruled Valencia until his death on July 10, 1099.

Had El Cid’s only son survived him, there would have been a dynasty, and possibly a new royal house. However that was not the case, and Valencia was ruled by Muslims again until 1238. As he had never been defeated in battle, the story of El Cid, with increasing literary license, became a great ballad for Christians, who overlooked his years working for Moors and hailed him as the hero for the “Reconquista”—the retaking of Spain from the Moors.


Contents

Gen. Ibn (pronounced Ben) Yusuf (Herbert Lom) of the Almoravid dynasty has summoned all the Emirs of Al-Andalus to North Africa. He chastises them for co-existing peacefully with their Christian neighbors, which goes against his dream of Islamic world domination. The emirs return to Spain with orders to resume hostilities with the Christians while Ibn Yusuf readies his army for a full-scale invasion.

Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Charlton Heston), on the way to his wedding with Doña Ximena (Sophia Loren), rescues a Spanish town from an invading Moorish army. Two of the Emirs, Al-Mu'tamin (Douglas Wilmer) of Zaragoza and Al-Kadir (Frank Thring) of Valencia, are captured. More interested in peace than in wreaking vengeance, Rodrigo escorts his prisoners to Vivar and releases them on condition that they never again attack lands belonging to King Ferdinand of Castile (Ralph Truman). The Emirs proclaim him "El Cid" (the Castillian Spanish pronunciation of the Arabic for Lord: "Al Sidi") and swear allegiance to him.

For his act of mercy, Don Rodrigo is accused of treason by Count Ordóñez (Raf Vallone). In court, the charge is supported by Ximena's father, Count Gormaz (Andrew Cruickshank), the king's champion. Rodrigo's aged father, Don Diego (Michael Hordern), angrily calls Gormaz a liar. Gormaz strikes Don Diego, challenging him to a duel. At a private meeting Rodrigo begs Gormaz to ask the aged but proud Diego for forgiveness (for accusing Rodrigo of treason). Gormaz refuses, so Rodrigo fights the duel on Diego’s behalf and kills his opponent. Ximena witnesses the death of Gormaz and swears to avenge him, renouncing her affection for Rodrigo.

When a rival king demands the city of Calahorra, Rodrigo becomes Ferdinand's champion, winning the city in single combat. In his new capacity he is sent on a mission to collect tribute from Moorish vassals to the Castillian crown. He asks that Ximena be given to him as his wife upon his return, so that he can provide for her. Ximena promises Count Ordóñez she will marry him instead if he kills Rodrigo. Ordóñez lays an ambush for Rodrigo and his men but is captured by Al-Mu'tamin, to whom Rodrigo had earlier showed mercy. Rodrigo forgives the Count and returns home to marry Ximena. The marriage is not consummated: Rodrigo will not touch her if she does not give herself to him out of love. Ximena instead goes to a convent.

King Ferdinand dies and his younger son, Prince Alfonso (John Fraser) tells the elder son Prince Sancho (Gary Raymond) that their father wanted his kingdom divided between his heirs: Castile to Sancho, Asturias and León to Alfonso, and Calahorra to their sister, Princess Urraca (Geneviève Page). Sancho refuses to accept anything but an undivided kingdom as his birthright. After Alfonso instigates a knife fight, Sancho overpowers his brother and sends him to be imprisoned in Zamora. Rodrigo, who swore to protect all the king’s children, singlehandedly defeats Alfonso's guards and brings the Prince to Calahorra. Sancho arrives to demand Alfonso, but Urraca refuses to hand him over. Rodrigo cannot take a side in the conflict, because his oath was to serve them all equally.

Ibn Yusuf arrives at Valencia, the fortified city guarding the beach where he plans to land his armada. To weaken his Spanish opponents he hires Dolfos, a warrior formerly trusted by Ferdinand, to assassinate Sancho and throw suspicion for the crime on Alfonso, who becomes the sole king. At Alfonso's coronation, El Cid has him swear upon the Bible that he had no part in the death of his brother. Alfonso, genuinely innocent, is offended by the demand and banishes Rodrigo from Spain. Ximena discovers she still loves Rodrigo and voluntarily joins him in exile. Rodrigo makes his career as a soldier in foreign lands, and he and Ximena have two children.

Years later, Rodrigo, known widely as "El Cid", is called back into the service of the king to protect Castille from Yusuf's North African army. Rather than work directly with the king El Cid allies himself with the Emirs besieging Valencia, where Al-Kadir has violated his oath of allegiance to Rodrigo and come out in support of Ibn Yusuf.

After being defeated by the Moors, Alfonso seizes Ximena and her children and puts them in prison. Count Ordóñez rescues the three and brings them to Rodrigo, wanting to end his rivalry with El Cid and join him in the defense of Spain. Knowing that the citizens of Valencia are starving after the long siege, Rodrigo wins them over by throwing food into the city with his catapults. Al-Kadir tries to intercede, but the Valencians kill him and open the gates to the besiegers. Emir Al-Mu'tamin, Rodrigo's army, and the Valencians offer the city's crown to El Cid, but he refuses and instead sends the crown to King Alfonso.

Ibn Yusuf arrives with his immense invasion army, and Valencia is the only barrier between him and Spain. The ensuing battle goes well for the defenders until El Cid is struck in the chest by an arrow and has to be carried away to safety. Doctors inform him that they can probably remove the arrow and save his life, but he will be incapacitated for a long time after the surgery. Unwilling to abandon his army at this critical moment, Rodrigo obtains a promise from Ximena to leave the arrow and let him ride back into battle, dying or dead. King Alfonso comes to his bedside and asks for his forgiveness.

Rodrigo dies, and his allies honor his wish to return to the army. With the help of an iron frame they prop up his corpse, dressed in armor and holding a banner, on the back of his horse Babieca. Guided by King Alfonso and Emir Al-Mu'tamin riding on either side, the horse leads a charge against Yusuf's terrified soldiers, who believe that El Cid has risen from the dead. Ibn Yusuf is thrown from his horse and crushed beneath Babieca’s hooves, leaving his scattered army to be annihilated. King Alfonso leads Christians and Moors alike in a prayer for God to receive the soul "of the purest knight of all".

    as Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid as Doña Ximena as Ben Yusuf as García Ordóñez as Doña Urraca (sister of Alfonso VI) as Alfonso VI (King of Castile) as Al-Mu'tamin (Emir of Zaragoza) as Al-Kadir (Quadir) (Emir of Valencia) as Don Diego (father of Rodrigo) as Count Gormaz (father of Ximena) as Prince Sancho, the 1st born of King Ferdinand as King Ferdinand as Fañez (nephew of Rodrigo) , as Arias as Al-Jarifi as Dolfos as Don Martín as Bermúdez as King Ramiro as Mother Superior
  • Katina Noble as Nun as Soldier (Credited on film as Nelio Bernardi) as Soldier

Development Edit

In 1958, producer Samuel Bronston first considered filming El Cid prior to his work on King of Kings (1961), but the production proved to be so troublesome that it would be set aside until King of Kings reached completion. [3] In April 1960, Variety announced that Bronston was independently producing three films in Spain, one of which included El Cid. It was also reported that Bronston had purchased the rights to Fredric M. Frank's 140-page treatment for the film and had hired him the week before to prepare the script by July. [4] In July, Anthony Mann and Philip Yordan had signed on to direct and co-write the film respectively. [5]

However, principal photography was nearly delayed when Cesáreo González's Aspa Films filed an infringement claim against Bronston over the project's title and theme. [6] Previously, in July 1956, it was reported that two biopics of El Cid were in development: an American-Spanish co-production with Anthony Quinn set to star, and a collaboration between RKO, Milton Sperling, and Marvin Gosch. [7] By August 1960, Bronston reached a deal to have Aspa Films and Robert Haggiag's Dear Film involved in the production making the project an American-Italian-Spanish co-production. [6]

Writing Edit

The first writer assigned was Fredric M. Frank. By their mid-November start date, Anthony Mann, Philip Yordan, and Charlton Heston had worked on the script in Madrid, with the first forty pages re-written by Yordan described by Heston as "an improvement over the first draft I'd read". [8] Two days prior to filming, Sophia Loren had read the latest draft in which she became displeased with her dialogue. She then recommended hiring blacklisted screenwriter Ben Barzman to revise the script. Mann subsequently flew out to get Barzman on a plane to Rome in which he gave him a draft, which Barzman found to be unusable. [9] With filming set to begin in a few days, Barzman received a copy of the tragicomedy play Le Cid by Pierre Corneille from the library of the French embassy in Madrid and used it as the basis for a new script. Barzman's screen credit would not be added to the film until 1999. [10] [11] [9]

However, Barzman's script lacked powerful romantic scenes, which again displeased Loren. Screenwriter Bernard Gordon then stated, "So [Philip] Yordan yanked me from what I was doing in Paris and said, 'Write me three or four love scenes for Loren and Heston.' Well, what the hell – he was paying me $1500 a week, which was a lot more than I made any other way, and I just took orders and I sat down and I wrote four scenes, about three or four pages each. Whatever love scenes there are in the picture I wrote. And they sent them to Loren and said, OK, she'll do the picture, so I was a little bit of a hero at that point." [12] [13] Loren had also hired screenwriter Basilio Franchina to translate the dialogue into Italian and then back into simpler English that she felt comfortable with. [14] For script advice and historical truth, Spanish historian Ramón Menéndez Pidal served as the historical consultant to the screenwriters and the director of the film. The naturalist Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente also helped to use raptors and other birds. [15]

Casting Edit

Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren were Bronston's first choices for the two leads. [3] Writing in his autobiography, in the summer of 1960, Heston had received Frank's draft which he described as not "good, ranging from minimally OK to crappy", but he was intrigued with the role. He flew out to Madrid, Spain to meet with Bronston, Yordan, and Mann who all discussed the role with him. [16] On July 26, 1960, his casting was announced. [17] As he conducted research into his role, Heston read El Cantar de mio Cid and arranged a meeting with historian Ramón Menéndez Pidal in Madrid. [18] [a] Initially, Loren was unavailable to portray Ximena, and Jeanne Moreau was briefly considered as a replacement. [3] Another account states Ava Gardner was approached for the role, but she backed out feeling Heston's part was bigger than hers. Mann then suggested his wife Sara Montiel, but Heston and Bronston refused. [19] Ultimately, Loren became available but only for ten to twelve weeks, [3] in which she was paid $200,000 producer Samuel Bronston also agreed to pay $200 a week for her hairdresser. [20] [21]

Orson Welles was initially approached to play Ben Yusuf, but he insisted a double do his on-set performance while he would dub in his lines during post-production. Bronston refused. [22] British actors were primarily sought for the other male roles, [22] for which most of the principal casting was completed by early November 1960. [23] That same month, on November 30, Hurd Hatfield had joined the cast. [24] At least four actresses screen-tested for the role for Doña Urraca. Geneviève Page won the part, and her casting was announced on December 16, 1960. [25]

Filming Edit

Principal photography began November 14, 1960 at Sevilla Studios in Madrid, Spain. [26] Filming was reported to spend at least four months of exterior shooting in Spain which would be followed by a final month of interior shooting at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. [23]

Loren's scenes were shot first as her availability was initially for twelve weeks. Shooting lasted for eight hours a day as the production employed French hours. [27] By January 1961, her part was considerably expanded in response to the early dailies. [1] Simultaneously, second-unit filming for the battle sequences were directed by Yakima Canutt. As filming had progressed, by December 1960, location shooting for action sequences were shot along the Guadarrama Pass. Specifically for the film's second half, Heston suggested growing a gray-flecked beard and wearing a facial scar to showcase Don Rodrigo's battle scarring within the ten-year gap. [28]

With the film's first half nearly complete, shooting for the battle of Valencia was filmed on location in Peñíscola as the actual city had become modernized. [29] For three months, hundreds of production design personnel constructed city walls to block off modern buildings. 1,700 trained infantrymen were leased from the Spanish Army as well as 500 mounted riders from Madrid's Municipal Honor Guard. [30] 15 war machines and siege towers were constructed from historical artwork, and 35 boats were decorated with battlements to serve as the Moorish fleet. [31] Tensions between Mann and Canutt rose as Mann sought to shoot the sequence himself. With the sequence nearly finished, Canutt spent three days filming pick-up shots which would be edited within the longer, master shots that Mann had earlier shot. [32] In his autobiography, Heston expressed his dissatisfaction with Mann's insistence on shooting the battle scenes himself, feeling Canutt was more competent and efficient. [33]

In April 1961, the last sequence to be shot for the film—the duel for Calahorra—was filmed near the Belmonte Castle. The scene was directed by Canutt. Prior to filming, Heston and British actor Christopher Rhodes trained for a month in the use in weaponry under stunt coordinator Enzo Musumeci Greco. The fight took five days to shoot, totaling 31 hours of combat before editing. 70,000 feet of film was shot for the sequence, which was ultimately edited down to 1,080 feet remaining in the film. [34]

Costume design Edit

Costume designers Veniero Colasanti and John Moore oversaw a staff of 400 wardrobe seamstresses which spent roughly $500,000 on manufacturing medieval-style clothing at a local supply company, Casa Cornejo, near Madrid. The most expensive costume piece was a black-and-gold velvet robe worn by King Alfonso VI during the film, which was tailored in Florence, Italy from materials specially woven in Venice. In total, over 2,000 costumes were used for the film. [1] [35] For the weaponry, Samuel Bronston Productions sought several local Spanish companies. Casa Cornejo provided 3,000 war helmets and hundreds of iron-studded leather jerkins. The Garrido Brothers factory, located in Toledo, Spain, worked under an exclusive contract for eight months producing 7,000 swords, scimitars, and lances. Anthony Luna, a Madrid prop manufacturer, crafted 40,000 arrows, 5,780 shields, 1,253 medieval harnesses, 800 maces and daggers, 650 suits of chain mail (woven from hemp and coated with a metal varnish), and 500 saddles. [35] [1]

El Cid had its world premiere at the Metropole Theatre, Victoria, London on December 6, 1961. On December 14, 1961, the film premiered at the Warner Theatre in New York City and premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles on December 18. [36] For the film's international release, distributors included the Rank Organization releasing the film in Britain, Dear Film in Italy, Astoria Filmes in Portugal, Filmayer in Spain, and Melior in Belgium. [37]

In August 1993, the film was re-released in theaters by Miramax Films having undergone a digital and color restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese. The re-release added 16 minutes of restored footage back to the film's initial 180-minute running time. [38] [39]

Home media Edit

The film was released on January 29, 2008 as a deluxe edition and a collector's edition DVD. Both DVDs included bonus materials including archival cast interviews, as well as 1961 promotional radio interviews with Loren and Heston an audio commentary from Bill Bronston (son of Samuel Bronston) and historian-author Neal M. Rosendorf a documentary on the importance of film preservation and restoration biographical featurettes on Samuel Bronston, Anthony Mann, and Miklos Rozsa and a "making of" documentary, "Hollywood Conquers Spain." The collector's edition DVD also included a reproduction of the premiere's souvenir program and a comic book, as well as six color production stills. [40]

Box office Edit

The film grossed $26.6 million in the United States and Canada and returned $12 million in rentals (the distributor's share of the box office gross). [2] [41]

Critical response Edit

Contemporary reviews Edit

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote "it is hard to remember a picture--not excluding Henry V, Ivanhoe, Helen of Troy and, naturally, Ben-Hur--in which scenery and regal rites and warfare have been so magnificently assembled and photographed as they are in this dazzler . The pure graphic structure of the pictures, the imposing arrangement of the scenes, the dynamic flow of the action against strong backgrounds, all photographed with the 70mm color camera and projected on the Super-Technirama screen, give a grandeur and eloquence to this production that are worth seeing for themselves". [42] Variety praised the film as "a fast-action color-rich, corpse-strewn, battle picture. The Spanish scenery is magnificent, the costumes are vivid, the chain mail and Toledo steel gear impressive." [43] Time magazine felt that "Surprisingly, the picture is good—maybe not as good as Ben-Hur, but anyway better than any spectacle since Spartacus." They also noted that "Bronston's epic has its embarrassments. El Cid himself, too, crudely contemporarized seems less the scourge of the heathen than a champion of civil rights. And there are moments when Hero Heston looks as though he needs a derrick to help him with that broadsword. Nevertheless, Anthony Mann has managed his immense material with firmness, elegance, and a sure sense of burly epic rhythm." [44]

Harrison's Reports praised the performances from Heston and Loren and summarized the film as "raw and strong, brooding and challenging, romantic and powerfully dramatic. It is motion picture entertainment ascending new heights of pomp, pageantry, panoply." [45] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times opened his review writing, "El Cid brings back the excitement of movie-making it may even bring back the excitement of movie-going. It's as big as Ben-Hur if not bigger. If it had put a few more connectives in the narrative, if it had not thrown in an excess of everything else in three hours running time, it might have been great." [46] Newsweek described the film as being "crammed with jousts and battles, and its sound track is reminiscent of Idlewild airport on a busy day, but the dramatics in it explode with all the force of a panful of popcorn." The reviewer also derided Mann's direction as "slow, stately, and confused, while Miss Loren and Heston spend most of the picture simply glaring at each other." [47]

Sophia Loren had a major issue with Bronston's promotion of the film, an issue important enough to her that Loren sued him for breach of contract in New York Supreme Court. As Time described it: [20]

On a 600-sq.-ft. billboard facing south over Manhattan's Times Square, Sophia Loren's name appears in illuminated letters that could be read from an incoming liner, but—Mamma mia!—that name is below Charlton Heston's. In the language of the complaint: "If the defendants are permitted to place deponent's name below that of Charlton Heston, then it will appear that deponent's status is considered to be inferior to that of Charlton Heston… It is impossible to determine or even to estimate the extent of the damages which the plaintiff will suffer".

Retrospective reviews Edit

During its 1993 re-release, Martin Scorsese praised El Cid as "one of the greatest epic films ever made". James Berardinelli of Reel Views gave the film three stars out of four. In his review, he felt that "El Cid turns more often to the ridiculous than the sublime. Perhaps if the movie didn't take itself so seriously, there wouldn't be opportunities for unintentional laughter, but, from the bombastic dialogue to the stentorian score, El Cid is about as self-important as a motion picture can be. Regardless, there are still moments of breathtaking, almost transcendant splendor, when the film makers attain the grand aspirations they strive for. [48] Richard Christiansen for the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four. He commented that ". watching the movie today is something of a chore. Much of its celebration of heroic romanticism seems either sillily inflated or crudely flat in this non-heroic age" and felt Heston and Loren lacked romantic chemistry. [49]

Richard Corliss, reviewing for Time, wrote that "Like the best action films, El Cid is both turbulent and intelligent, with characters who analyze their passions as they eloquently articulate them. The Court scenes, in particular, have the complex intrigue, if not quite the poetry, of a Shakespearean history play. This richness is especially evident in the film's love story." [50] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 12 reviews with an average rating of 6.71/10. [51]


The Genius of El Cid


El Cid's victory was celebrated in royal courts throughout Europe, and his legend inspired Spaniards for years to come (AKG-IMAGES).

In October 1094, citizens of the Mediterranean port of Valencia peered nervously from their white stone walls at a menacing line of wheeled siege towers. A sea of black, camel-skin campaign tents stretched beyond that, the siege deployment of a huge army. For 10 days and nights, the relentless thunder of thousands of enemy drums shook the air, punctuated by war cries and the screams of archers riding up to send a shower of flaming arrows over the city walls. The investing army was Muslim&mdashMoors from the Maghreb, veiled Tuaregs from the Sahara, black warriors from Senegal. Part of a fundamentalist Islamic reform movement, these African warriors&mdashcalled Almoravids (men of frontier garrisons)&mdashhad crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to wage holy war on the Christians of the Iberian Peninsula. They followed 78-year-old Yusuf bin Tashufin, a charismatic, religious eccentric whose African empire stretched from the Niger River in West Africa to Gibraltar. His goal: defend the centuries-old Muslim rule in Iberia. At Valencia, bin Tashufin&rsquos victory seemed inevitable. The siege force outnumbered the city&rsquos defenders perhaps as much as six to one. But leading the Valencians was the maverick Castilian knight Rodrigo (Ruy) Díaz de Vivar. Known as El Cid, or &ldquothe master,&rdquo Rodrigo today is legendary for his exploits during the Reconquista, the long campaign by Christian armies to take Spain back from the Muslim forces that first swept over Iberia in the eighth century. Hollywood would base an epic movie on his feats, the 1961 El Cid, with Charlton Heston in the lead role.

"El Cid" found a weakness in what was supposed to be the Almoravid army&rsquos strength&mdashits strict tactical organization, firm individual discipline, and tight control

At Valencia, Rodrigo added an important chapter to that story. Thanks to an ingenious surprise attack, he routed the Muslim forces, becoming the only Christian leader of the 11th century to defeat the mighty Almoravid army in open battle. It was a victory that inspired Christian Europe, emphatic proof that the long-dominant Muslim armies could be beaten.

Born in 1043 in the northern Iberian kingdom of Castile, Rodrigo was the son of a distinguished knight in the service of King Ferdinand I, who ruled both Castile and León, which lay just to the west. When his father died, the 15-year-old boy became a ward of Prince Sancho, Ferdinand&rsquos oldest son. Raised in the royal court and trained as a knight, Rodrigo grew skilled with the lance and broadsword and won a fearsome reputation as king&rsquos champion in single combats.

After Ferdinand died in 1065, a dynastic war broke out, with Alfonso, Sancho&rsquos brother, challenging for the combined Léon-Castile crown. Rodrigo distinguished himself fighting as Sancho II&rsquos alférez (royal marshal)&mdashthe king once remarked that he was worth a thousand men&mdashbut Alfonso triumphed when his brother was assassinated in 1072. Though Rodrigo dutifully served the new king, he never won Alfonso&rsquos full confidence and was banished from Léon-Castile in 1081. Becoming a mercenary, he joined the service of al-Mu&rsquotamin, the emir of the northeastern kingdom of Zaragoza, where he led a retinue of 2,000 freelance Christian knights along with al-Mu&rsquotamin&rsquos Muslim troops. His task: protect Zaragoza against encroaching neighbors, whether Muslim or Christian. It was probably al-Mu&rsquotamin who made him a lord, bestowing the Arabic honorific as-sayyid, or El Cid in Spanish.

Alfonso VI, meanwhile, set out to reunite all Iberia under his Christian rule. Since the eighth century, Muslims had controlled as much as two-thirds of the peninsula, with León and Castile the most formidable Christian strongholds in the north. A powerful caliphate governed Muslim Spain&mdashthen called al-Andalus&mdash­until 1031, and its fall splintered the region into independent but weak Arab-ruled ministates, or taifas. Capitalizing on this fracture, León-Castile and other burgeoning Christian kingdoms in the north began to force the taifas to pay tribute or hire Christian mercenaries for protection.

Alfonso, envisioning himself as the predestined leader of a Christian reconquest of Iberia, declared himself emperor of all Spain in 1077 and increased his tribute demands. In turn, taifa princes petitioned bin Tashufin, the great Berber leader in Africa, for help. Bin Tashufin initially resisted their entreaties he considered the taifa princes irreligious and indolent. But in 1085, Alfonso conquered Toledo, the largest city in Muslim Spain and a center of Islamic scholarship, and made it his capital. With that, bin Tashufin decided that jihad&mdashthe Muslim&rsquos duty to defend the faithful and protect or extend the bounds of Islam against the infidel&mdashobligated him to intervene.

On July 30, 1086, bin Tashufin crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed at the port city of Algeciras with 4,000 Berber and African cavalry and infantry. A few days later, he appeared at a large Seville mosque and summoned the Muslims of al-Andalus to jihad. In October, he set off to rendezvous with Andalusian troops at Badajoz, in western Iberia.

Alfonso, meanwhile, scraped up all the men-at-arms he dared from León-Castile&mdashperhaps as few as 2,500, plus crusaders from Italy and France&mdashand headed south. On October 23 the armies met at Sagrajas, a few miles east of Badajoz. In a bitter, drawn-out battle with heavy losses on both sides, bin Tashufin&rsquos army crushed Alfonso&rsquos overconfident forces. Alfonso, himself wounded, narrowly escaped with 500 of his knights. The next morning, the heads of the Christian fallen were lopped off, loaded onto carts, and taken to cities throughout al-Andalus to prove the Almoravid victory.

Bin Tashufin was unable to follow up on this triumph uprisings in Morocco and other trouble forced his return to Africa. Nevertheless, Sagrajas weakened Alfonso, and taifa rulers entered into alliances with bin Tashufin.

In the wake of the defeat, Alfonso lifted Rodrigo&rsquos banishment and assigned him a key role in a new crusade strategy. The king wanted to regain control of Valencia, the important commercial and cultural center in the east. Alfonso believed the people of Valencia and the small taifas in eastern Iberia might welcome a new ruler. About half were Mozarabs, Christians who favored Arabic speech, dress, and customs. The Andalusian Muslims, meanwhile, split into pro- and anti-Almoravid factions.

As part of his reconciliation with Alfonso, Rodrigo won the right to keep lands he seized from Muslim rule. Within six years of Sagrajas, he had established a protectorate over much of the coast. The climax of his campaign came in May 1094, when he occupied Valencia after an 11-month siege, evicted the governing pro-Almoravid faction, and assumed the reins of power.

About this time, bin Tashufin obtained a fatwa from his great teacher in Alexandria that legitimized the annexation of Andalusia&rsquos 20-odd taifas to his empire. Valencia was the key to his strategy if he could control it, he could pressure Alfonso in Toledo, as well as al-Mu&rsquotamin in Zaragoza, the last independent taifa.

In August 1094, a huge Almoravid army crossed the Gibraltar Strait. Among the transport ships were galleys towing palm-trunk rafts carrying elephants. Bin Tashufin appointed his nephew, whose name appears to have been Abu Abdullah bin Muhammad, to lead the campaign. The army was divided into two roughly equal corps. The first, under Muhammad&rsquos command, was to take Valencia and rid bin Tashufin of the pesky Cid.

This force enjoyed several advantages over the city&rsquos defenders. It likely boasted 25,000 or more men, while El Cid&rsquos striking force numbered fewer than 4,000 mounted men-at-arms. Also, Almoravid warriors were religious fanatics who, assured of eternal reward in the hereafter, fought to the death. Christian noblemen, meanwhile, typically surrendered when faced with hopeless circumstances, expecting to be ransomed.

The Almoravid style of warfare gave the invaders yet another edge. The modern term &ldquoasymmetric&rdquo very nearly describes it. Though from different tribes and ethnic groups, bin Tashufin&rsquos warriors were disciplined professionals trained to attack in mixed teams and organized to move en masse, each corps following commands conveyed by flags and drums.

European armies, by contrast, seemed improvised, loosely organized, and slow to react. Knights constituted the main striking force, but they owed only limited military service to their king in exchange for royal recognition of their inherited estates. Individualistic, headstrong, and unruly, they might haughtily ignore battlefield orders, even from the king, if conveyed by a commoner or a nobleman of lower feudal rank. In the melee following a charge, knights sought to fight in single combats rather than in teams, preferably engaging a warrior of equal rank.

The European armies did enjoy one advantage. Their principal tactic was the large-scale heavy-cavalry charge. Launched at a critical moment, tightly massed and with the full weight of men and mounts behind the forged-iron tips of long lances, the charge was a &ldquoshock and awe&rdquo spectacle that often made defending formations break and run.

Since his armies first faced this charge at Sagrajas, bin Tashufin had modified his organization and tactics to defeat it. Some 80 percent of the Almoravid army was mounted, but because chain-mail armor was expensive and not widely available, most of the soldiers were light cavalry fighting like infantry with little or no bodily protection other than small round shields. Given this handicap, the Muslim warriors could not mount a heavy charge. Bin Tashufin had discovered that his desert cavalry could keep the enemy from organizing and launching its devastating massed charges. Rather than going head-to-head with armored knights, his men fought in skirmishing attacks in which their more agile Berber horses easily out-turned the knights&rsquo destriers&mdashlarge horses bred to carry the weight of heavily armed and armored riders. The mounted skirmishers would lure impulsive knights into protective spear lines of Berber infantry, who then showered the enemy with arrows and armor-piercing javelins. Horse archers would also dart in close to bring down knights&rsquo horses, spoiling a charge as it formed. Once these tactics had softened the enemy, the Almoravids&rsquo limited armored cavalry might spearhead a charge of their massed light cavalry.


By 1094, Christians had began what would be a long fight to reclaim Iberia. The map above shows the approximate division of the peninsula at the time of El Cid's Battle of El Cuarte (Baker Vail).

Literate in Latin and Arabic, Rodrigo had studied the classical sources on battle tactics and siege techniques, sometimes sight-translating passages aloud to his knights. In fact, he had long ago earned the honorific campeador, which came from the Latin campi doctoris (a battle planner and teacher), used in Vegetius&rsquos popular fourth-century Roman treatise, De re militari.

To help ascertain the Almoravids&rsquo weaknesses, Rodrigo turned to his most trusted lieutenant, Álvar Háñez de Minaya, who had fought at Sagrajas. Olaizola&rsquos novel portrays Rodrigo &ldquopicking the brains&rdquo of Álvar and others, &ldquomaking copious notes, even drawing maps on parchments showing in different colors the deployments and maneuvers of horse cavalry, camel corps, archers, and foot soldiers.&rdquo

Given the Almoravids&rsquo numerical superiority, convention suggested that Rodrigo fight defensively. But he believed he had to destroy bin Tashufin&rsquos army to remove the Almoravid threat to Valencia. That meant taking the enemy by surprise outside the city walls.

Rodrigo had the uncanny ability to spot and exploit his opponent&rsquos vulnerabilities&mdashwhether in weapons, tactics, or even cultural practices. Instinctively he found a weakness in what was supposed to be the Almoravid army&rsquos strength&mdashits strict tactical organization, firm individual discipline, and tight control. He concluded that if he could attack before they had organized and deployed, his knights&rsquo advantages&mdashskill at arms, quality and weight of weapons, armor, and mounts, and individual élan&mdashmight carry the day.

To attack before the Almoravids could deploy, Rodrigo would have to draw them to a field of battle away from their siege cordon at Valencia. Four miles up the Río Turia from Valencia and northwest of the city lay the plain of El Cuarte (Quart de Poblet today). The Turia fed a network of canals and ditches irrigating huertas (market gardens), beyond which stretched meadows and groves of algarrobos (carob trees). Rodrigo presumed the Almoravids would make their base camp at El Cuarte because the valley was the only place with sufficient forage for their horses, mules, camels, and elephants. To make sure, he had anti-Almoravid Muslims meet the enemy quartermasters, pretend to welcome them as liberators, and direct them there.

Unknown to the Almoravids, the early autumn regularly saw heavy rains in the area around Valencia. And when the rains arrived as late as October, they typically began with a deluge, triggering floods that wiped out harvests.

When spies advised that the Almoravids would reach Valencia in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Rod­rigo saw another way to tip the balance in his favor. During Ramadan, Muslims abstained from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. After fasting all day, observants usually slept late after a long night of heavy eating&mdasha routine that often left them lethargic and irritable. Rodrigo realized that the Almoravids would be at their most vulnerable at the end of Ramadan, October 14.

Almoravid quartermasters arrived at El Cuarte in mid-September the column of soldiers, women, children, servants, pack trains, and animal herds took another 15 days to arrive at the campsite. Not a drop of rain had fallen for months, and market gardeners and Valencia&rsquos citizens kept an eye on the sky as October arrived.

According to Olaizola, Muhammad, bin Tashufin&rsquos nephew, presented himself at Valencia&rsquos main gate on October 4. With him were his principal captains and his most imposing units, including a mehala (camel corps). The city, Muhammad said, should surrender without delay. El Cid, however, stood firm.

This first encounter concluded with Muhammad ordering elephants to push forward six wheeled belfries built at El Cuarte. These mobile wooden siege towers must have topped 30 feet&mdashhigh enough that their storming bridges could be lowered onto Valencia&rsquos battlements. Rawhides covered the front and sides for protection against flaming arrows. The following day, Muhammad strengthened the cordon around the city, deploying archers, spearmen, javelin throwers, and horsemen and making a show of trumpeting elephants.

On each of the next eight days, the Almoravid general came to the gate to renew his surrender demand, taunt Rodrigo for delaying, and admonish Valencia&rsquos Muslims for collaborating with the infidel during Ramadan. On the 10th day of the siege, Valencia&rsquos market gardeners called Rodrigo&rsquos attention to birds appearing from unusual directions and flying so low that they grazed the ground&mdasha sign that the overdue rains were about to begin. That night, the sky filled with black clouds loaded with moisture.

At dawn on October 14, raindrops pattered on Valencia&rsquos empty, eerily silent cobblestone streets. The populace had been warned to stay home. Just inside the city&rsquos main gate, 130 handpicked knights led by Álvar Háñez waited, dismounted. Roused at 3 a.m. for a special Mass, the rest now sat on their high-saddled destriers, standing by in courtyards and marketplaces at the city&rsquos northwestern gates. A low murmur arose as Friar (and future bishop) Jerónimo moved among the ranks with a tall wooden cross for the men to kiss. &ldquoI absolve from sin all those who die with their faces to the enemy,&rdquo he quietly told them. &ldquoGod will receive their souls.&rdquo

As the sun rose out of the Mediterranean, the west-facing gate opened a crack and Álvar&rsquos knights slipped out. All carried new shields made by Basque craftsmen from tough haya (beech) wood, with forged iron reinforcements. Standing shoulder to shoulder in a single rank, they made a formidable shield wall.

Struggling awake from their Ramadan slumber, the Almoravid sentries squinted into the rising sun. Now Álvar&rsquos knights reached the closest belfry. Though the siege machines had frightened the citizens of Valencia, Rodrigo had seen an opportunity in them. Some of Álvar&rsquos men pushed bundles of dry straw under the rawhide coverings and set them alight. Flames shot up the wooden scaffolds and ladders. Berber warriors reacted with howls and invocations to the Prophet, but their archers&rsquo desultory shots couldn&rsquot pierce the Basque shields.

Meanwhile, behind the walls of Valencia, Rodrigo had divided his main force into two. He took charge of the lead element, according to Abu bin Alqama, the only chronicler to witness the scene. Springing onto the back of his famed warhorse, Babieca, he put spur to flank and led his knights through the gates at the trot. Outside, he drew his bejeweled sword, Colada, and gave the battle cry that would animate the Reconquista for the next 400 years, as well as New World conquests after that: &ldquoFor God and Santiago [St. James], and at them!&rdquo

The knights charged through the pandemonium that was now the Almoravid cordon. The ground trembled under the hooves of the destriers as they trampled lanced Berber warriors, tents, field kitchens, and supplies.

When the knights had passed through the cordon, they rallied around Rodrigo&rsquos banner. Then, with the bewildered Berbers facing this group, the second wing smashed into them from the rear. By the time these knights had joined Rodrigo&rsquos wing, the plain was a scene of chaos, littered with corpses, debris, and soldiers trying to surrender.

The rain now turned into a downpour, and Rodrigo wheeled and led his knights at the gallop toward the enemy&rsquos main camp at El Cuarte. Leaderless and without orders, Berber cavalrymen seized mounts and set off in wild pursuit. As they arrived at El Cuarte, they were shaken by the spectacle: The Turia, swollen by water surging down from the mountains, had become a torrent rushing to the sea, carrying away pavilions, campaign tents, supply wagons, and stores. For Rodrigo had ordered the irrigation weirs opened or broken. As the Almoravid horsemen streamed onto the plain, Rodrigo&rsquos force stormed out from the groves of algarrobos in a classic knights&rsquo charge.

Even as the Almoravids struggled to meet this new assault, their situation took another turn for the worse. Álvar and his knights, who had remained outside the walls of Valencia to round up surrendering Muslim warriors, now rode up and fell on them with such force that organized resistance died away. According to Arab chronicler bin Alqama, the Muslims ran in all directions, with Muhammad the first to take flight. Panicked Berbers drowned elephants flailed about as they sank into newly formed swamps, killing or injuring others. Some Almoravids fought bravely, trying to protect their women and children, but the knights cut down all who resisted.

According to an account by Rodrigo&rsquos clerics, the victory was &ldquoachieved with incredible speed and with few casualties among the Christians.&rdquo An Arab chronicler wrote, &ldquoRodrigo&mdashmay God curse him&mdashsaw his banners favored by victory, and with a scanty number of warriors annihilated sizable armies.&rdquo

That night the moon was full. Muhammad was eventually captured, and while bin Tashufin refused to ransom him, Rodrigo freed him anyway. The abundant booty&mdashgold, silver, gemstones, and more&mdashmade Rodrigo and his knights rich. Even though Alfonso had not delivered assistance in time, Rodrigo&mdashever the loyal vassal&mdashsent him Muhammad&rsquos great camel-skin tent, with poles of precious woods worked in gold, along with a thousand Berber horses.

Royal courts all over Europe celebrated the victory the Almoravids&rsquo military might and revitalization of Iberian Islam had been a dire threat to the Christian Reconquista. Alfonso would fail to capitalize on the victory that Rodrigo handed him, however, and Christians would spend another four centuries trying to force out the Muslims.

But by destroying the Almoravid army at El Cuarte, Rodrigo established the high-water mark for the Muslim advance in the Iberian Peninsula. In the years after the battle, he captured the last two Moorish castles in the region and defeated another Almoravid invasion. All the while, he evenhandedly ruled a region of Muslims and Christians.

Rodrigo died peacefully in bed in 1099, five years after El Cuarte. But when the Spaniards needed a national hero during the next few centuries as they battled the Muslims, the legend of El Cid Campeador would inspire them. In one apocryphal story, El Cid was killed in a siege, but still scared off the enemy when he was lashed to his horse and sent out to face the battle lines. That myth endured for generations, and became the climax for the Charlton Heston movie, with the hero in full armor and fearsome even in death.


King James I "the Conquerer"

James I of Aragon (1208 - 1276)

James the first of Aragon was another hero of the Spanish "Reconquista". Born in Montpelier in 1208, he ascended to the throne at the age of six when his father, Pedro II "The Catholic", was killed in the battle of Muret. After his father's death the young King was taken hostage until the Pope ordered that he should be returned to his family. He was then taken into the custody of the Knights Templar in their castle at Monzón.

There then followed a period of ten years of anarchy and revolt as his Uncle tried unsuccessfully to control the kingdom's nobility. Finally in 1225, at the age of 17, King James I returned to take control of his kingdom.

The Young King spent the first few years of his rule regaining control of the rebellious nobles with fierce battles at Albarracin and Montcada. In 1229, with his kingdom back under control and more powerful than ever, James I set out to regain Mallorca from the Moors. It was this famous victory that earned him the title of "the Conqueror" ("El Conquistador" in Spanish). By the time of his death in 1276 King James's kingdom had expanded to include Aragon, Catalonia, all four of the Balearic Islands and Valencia.


El Cid

The militarially weak Islamic Taifa empires survived as long as they did by accepting the protection of the now powerful Christian Northern kingdoms, for payment. The legend of El Cid (the boss), Castilian nobleman Rodrigo Diaz, can be seen from a different perspective. Not so much a Christian hero who fought to expel the Moors from Spain, El Cid was a successful mercenary who served both Islamic as Christian rulers.

Eventually, El Cid became prince of the Taifa of Valencia – very successful indeed.


El Cid

The great popular hero of the chivalrous age of Spain, born at Burgos c. 1040 died at Valencia, 1099. He was given the title of seid or cid (lord, chief) by the Moors and that of campeador (champion) by his admiring countrymen.

Tradition and legend have cast a deep shadow over the history of this brave knight, to such an extent that his very existence has been questioned there is however, no reason to doubt his existence. We must, at the same time regard him as a dual personality, and distinguish between the historical Cid and the legendary Cid. History paints him as a free booter, an unprincipled adventurer, who battled with equal vigour against Christians and Moors who, to further his own ends, would as soon destroy a Christian church as a Moslem temple who plundered and slew as much for his own gain as from any patriotic motives. It must be born in mind, however that the facts which discredit him have reached us through hostile Arab historians, and that to do him full justice he should be judged according to the standard of his country in his day. Vastly different indeed is the Cid of romance, legend, and ballad, wherein he is pictured as the tender, loving husband and father the gentle courageous soldier the noble, generous conqueror, unswervingly loyal to his country and his king the man whose name has been an ever-present inspiration to Spanish patriotism. But whatever may have been the real adventures of El Cid Campeador , his name has come down to us in modern times in connection with a long series of heroic achievements in which he stands out as the central figure of the long struggle of Christian Spain against the Moslem hosts.

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Ferdinand I, at his death (1065), had divided his dominions between his three sons, Sancho, Alfonso, and Garcia, and his two daughters, Elvira and Urraca, exacting from them a promise that they would respect his wishes and abide by the division. But Sancho, to whose lot had fallen the Kingdom of Castile, being the eldest, thought that he should have inherited the entire dominions of his father, and he resolved to repudiate his promise, claiming that it had been forced from him. Stronger, braver, and craftier than his brothers, he cherished the idea of despoiling them and his sisters of their possessions, and becoming the sole successor of his father.

At this time, Rodrigo Diaz was quite young, and Sancho, out of gratitude for the services of Rodrigo's father to the State, had retained his son at the court and looked after his education, especially his military training. Rodrigo later rendered such distinguished services in the war in which Sancho became involved with Aragon that he was made alferez (standard-bearer or commander-in-chief) of the king's troops. After ending this war with Aragon, Sancho turned his attention to his plan of despoiling his brothers and sisters (c. 1070). He succeeded in adding to his dominion Leon and Galicia, the portions of his brothers, but not until in each instance Rodrigo had come to his rescue and turned apparent defeat into victory. The city of Toro, the domain of his sister Elvira, was taken without trouble. He then laid siege to the city of Zamora, the portion of his sister Urraca, and there met his fate, being treacherously slain before the gates of the city by one of Urraca's soldiers (1072). Learning this, Alfonso who had been exiled to the Moorish city of Toledo, set out in haste to claim the dominions of his brother, and succeeded him on the throne as Alfonso VI, though not without opposition, from his brother Garcia, in Galicia, and especially in Castile, the inhabitants of which objected to a Leonese king. The story is told, though not on the best historical authority, that the Castilians refused Alfonso their allegiance until he had sworn that he had no hand in his brother's death, and that, as none of the nobles was willing to administer the oath for fear of offending him, Rodrigo did so at Santa Gadea before the assembled nobility. If this be true, it would account in a great measure for the ill-will Alfonso bore Rodrigo, and for his subsequent treatment of him. He did not at first show his hatred, but tried to conciliate Rodrigo and the Castilians by bestowing upon him his niece Jimena in marriage (1074). It was not long, however, before he had an opportunity to satisfy his animosity. Rodrigo having been sent by Alfonso to collect tribute from the king of Seville, Alfonso's vassal, he was accused on his return, by his enemies of having retained a part of it. Whereupon, Alfonso, giving free rein to his hatred, banished him from his dominions (1076). Rodrigo then began his career as a soldier of fortune, which has furnished themes to Spanish poets of early modern times, and which, idealized by tradition and legend, has made of him the champion of Christian Spain against her Moorish invaders. During this period of his career, he offered his services and those of his followers first to one petty ruler and then another, and often fought on his own account, warring indifferently against Christians and Moors, always with distinguished success, and incidentally rising to great power and influence. But in time of necessity his assistance was sought by Alfonso, and in the midst of career of conquest he hastened to the latter's support when he was hard pressed by Yusuf, the founder of Morocco. Through some mistake or misunderstanding, however, he failed to join the king, who listening to the complaints and accusations of the Cid's enemies, took from him all of his possessions, imprisoned his wife and children, and again banished him for his dominions. Disgraced and plundered, the Cid resumed his military operations. Upon his return from one of his campaigns, hearing that the Moors had driven the Christians from Valencia and taken possession of the city, he determined to recapture it from them and become lord of that capital. This he did (1094) after a terrible siege. He spent the remainder of his days there. His two daughters were married to the Infante of Navarre and the Count of Barcelona respectively. His remains were transferred to the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena near Burgos, where they now rest.


CID01 El Cid - Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, was born near Burgos around 1043AD, and was the son of a minor Castilian noble. He became a Castilian knight and warlord in medieval Spain. The Moors called him EL CID, which meant the Lord, and the Christians called him EL CAMPEADOR, which means &ldquoThe Champion&rdquo, in modern Spanish, but can also be translated as &ldquoThe Master Of The Battlefield&rdquo.
Vivar became well known for his service in the armies of both Christian and Muslim rulers, and is probably one of the most famous warriors of the middle Ages. Unlike the shadowy Arthur of Britain, Spain&rsquos national hero has left us with a written history of his exploits, and even his signiture as proof that this great warrior once existed. After his death, El Cid became Spain&rsquos celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, &ldquoEl Cantar de Mio Cid&rdquo.
The Spanish Warlord is probably best known as a slayer of Moors immortalised in the 1961 movie, especially by the compelling final image of Charlton Heston riding through hordes of black clad Almoravids outside the walls of Valencia.

The age in which El Cid lived has since been termed the &ldquoReconquista&rdquo, or Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors, and was one of the most colourful periods in military history.
The armies are spectacular and varied, ranging from the noble Christian Knights to the Muslim Andalusians, through to the religious zeal of the African invaders, the Almoravids and Almohads. Although the period is often portrayed as a simple war of religion, it was in fact a great deal more complex, with Muslim commonly fighting Muslim, and Christian fighting Christians, with both sides using allies and mercenaries whenever it suited them.

This period, during the lifetime of El Cid 1040-1100AD saw the rise of heavy cavalry charges and other northern European influences, especially in the kingdoms of Aragon and Catalonia, which had the strongest links to France.

Note the castle will be a future release.

Please note the above price is the US$ price and A$ price will be calculated at time of purchase.


El Cid

The great popular hero of the chivalrous age of Spain, born at Burgos c. 1040 died at Valencia, 1099. He was given the title of seid or cid (lord, chief) by the Moors and that of campeador (champion) by his admiring countrymen.

Tradition and legend have cast a deep shadow over the history of this brave knight, to such an extent that his very existence has been questioned there is however, no reason to doubt his existence. We must, at the same time regard him as a dual personality, and distinguish between the historical Cid and the legendary Cid. History paints him as a free booter, an unprincipled adventurer, who battled with equal vigour against Christians and Moors who, to further his own ends, would as soon destroy a Christian church as a Moslem temple who plundered and slew as much for his own gain as from any patriotic motives. It must be born in mind, however that the facts which discredit him have reached us through hostile Arab historians, and that to do him full justice he should be judged according to the standard of his country in his day. Vastly different indeed is the Cid of romance, legend, and ballad, wherein he is pictured as the tender, loving husband and father the gentle courageous soldier the noble, generous conqueror, unswervingly loyal to his country and his king the man whose name has been an ever-present inspiration to Spanish patriotism. But whatever may have been the real adventures of El Cid Campeador, his name has come down to us in modern times in connection with a long series of heroic achievements in which he stands out as the central figure of the long struggle of Christian Spain against the Moslem hosts.

Ferdinand I, at his death (1065), had divided his dominions between his three sons, Sancho, Alfonso, and Garcia, and his two daughters, Elvira and Urraca, exacting from them a promise that they would respect his wishes and abide by the division. But Sancho, to whose lot had fallen the Kingdom of Castile, being the eldest, thought that he should have inherited the entire dominions of his father, and he resolved to repudiate his promise, claiming that it had been forced from him. Stronger, braver, and craftier than his brothers, he cherished the idea of despoiling them and his sisters of their possessions, and becoming the sole successor of his father.

At this time, Rodrigo Diaz was quite young, and Sancho, out of gratitude for the services of Rodrigo's father to the State, had retained his son at the court and looked after his education, especially his military training. Rodrigo later rendered such distinguished services in the war in which Sancho became involved with Aragon that he was made alferez (standard-bearer or commander-in-chief) of the king's troops. After ending this war with Aragon, Sancho turned his attention to his plan of despoiling his brothers and sisters (c. 1070). He succeeded in adding to his dominion Leon and Galicia, the portions of his brothers, but not until in each instance Rodrigo had come to his rescue and turned apparent defeat into victory. The city of Toro, the domain of his sister Elvira, was taken without trouble. He then laid siege to the city of Zamora, the portion of his sister Urraca, and there met his fate, being treacherously slain before the gates of the city by one of Urraca's soldiers (1072). Learning this, Alfonso who had been exiled to the Moorish city of Toledo, set out in haste to claim the dominions of his brother, and succeeded him on the throne as Alfonso VI, though not without opposition, from his brother Garcia, in Galicia, and especially in Castile, the inhabitants of which objected to a Leonese king. The story is told, though not on the best historical authority, that the Castilians refused Alfonso their allegiance until he had sworn that he had no hand in his brother's death, and that, as none of the nobles was willing to administer the oath for fear of offending him, Rodrigo did so at Santa Gadea before the assembled nobility. If this be true, it would account in a great measure for the ill-will Alfonso bore Rodrigo, and for his subsequent treatment of him. He did not at first show his hatred, but tried to conciliate Rodrigo and the Castilians by bestowing upon him his niece Jimena in marriage (1074). It was not long, however, before he had an opportunity to satisfy his animosity. Rodrigo having been sent by Alfonso to collect tribute from the king of Seville, Alfonso's vassal, he was accused on his return, by his enemies of having retained a part of it. Whereupon, Alfonso, giving free rein to his hatred, banished him from his dominions (1076). Rodrigo then began his career as a soldier of fortune, which has furnished themes to Spanish poets of early modern times, and which, idealized by tradition and legend, has made of him the champion of Christian Spain against her Moorish invaders. During this period of his career, he offered his services and those of his followers first to one petty ruler and then another, and often fought on his own account, warring indifferently against Christians and Moors, always with distinguished success, and incidentally rising to great power and influence. But in time of necessity his assistance was sought by Alfonso, and in the midst of career of conquest he hastened to the latter's support when he was hard pressed by Yusuf, the founder of Morocco. Through some mistake or misunderstanding, however, he failed to join the king, who listening to the complaints and accusations of the Cid's enemies, took from him all of his possessions, imprisoned his wife and children, and again banished him for his dominions. Disgraced and plundered, the Cid resumed his military operations. Upon his return from one of his campaigns, hearing that the Moors had driven the Christians from Valencia and taken possession of the city, he determined to recapture it from them and become lord of that capital. This he did (1094) after a terrible siege. He spent the remainder of his days there. His two daughters were married to the Infante of Navarre and the Count of Barcelona respectively. His remains were transferred to the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena near Burgos, where they now rest.

The exploits of El Cid form the subject of what is generally considered the oldest monument of Spanish literature. This is an epic poem of a little over 3700 lines as it has reached us (several hundred lines being missing), the author of which, as is not uncommon with works of those days, is unknown. The date of its composition has long been a disputed question. Many critics whose names must be mentioned with respect, among them Dozy and Ticknor, place it at the beginning of the thirteenth century but today the best opinion places the poem a half-century earlier. Among those who think it was written as early as the middle of twelfth century are many eminent Spanish and foreign scholars, including Sanchez, the first editor of the poem, Capmany, Quintana, Gil y Zarate, Bouterwek, Sismondi, Shlegel, Huber, and Wolf. The learned Amador de los Rios, whose opinion carries great weight, thinks that the famous poem must have been written prior to 1157. Though based upon historical facts, the "Poema del Cid" is to a very large extent legendary. Its theme is twofold, the adventures of the exiled Cid and the mythical marriage of his two daughters to the Counts of Carrion. The first few pages are missing, and what remains opens abruptly with the banishment of the Cid by King Alfonso, and ends with a slight allusion to the hero's death. But the story it tells is not its chief claim to our consideration. The poem deserves to be read for its faithful pictures of the manners and customs of the day it represents. It is written with Homeric simplicity and in the language of the day, the language the Cid himself used, which was slowly divorcing itself from the Latin, but was still only half developed. The versification is rather crude and ill-sustained. The prevailing metre is the Alexandrine or fourteen syllabled verse with a caesural pause after the eighth but the lines often run into sixteen or even twenty syllables, and sometimes stop at twelve or ten. This however, may be partly due to careless copying.

The adventures of the Cid have furnished material for many dramatic writers, notably to Guillen de Castro, the eminent Valencian poet and dramatist of the early seventeenth century, whose masterpiece, "Las Mocedades del Cid" earned him whatever reputation he enjoyed outside of Spain. This latter work, in turn, furnished the basis for Corneille's brilliant tragedy, "Le Cid", which according to Ticknor, did more than any other drama to determine for two centuries the character of the theatre all over the continent of Europe. Among other works dealing with the life and adventures of the Cid are:


Watch the video: El Cid. Suite (July 2022).


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