El Cid, El Campeador
1043 - 1098
The greatest Spanish hero of the 11th c.by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, also known as El Campeador to the Spanish people, and El Cid to Muslims, was born in the village of Vivar near Burgos in northern Spain. His exact date of birth is unknown but he was born in the year 1043. Rodrigo's father was a member of the minor gentry, and because he had served King Ferdinand of Castile, Rodrigo was apprenticed in Ferdinand’s court. During the early part of his life Rodrigo fought for King Ferdinand against Christian and Moor alike. Because of his bravery in battle Rodrigo was given the nickname El Campeador, which means master of military arts and also El Cid by Muslims because of his mercy in battle. In 1065 Ferdinand died but before his death he had wished that his kingdom be divided between his sons and daughters. His oldest son Sancho, received Castile, his second son Alfonso, received Leon, his youngest son Garcia, received Galicia, his Daughter Elvira received the city of Toro, and his daughter Urraca, received the city of Zamora. Ferdinand had split his kingdom in the hopes that his children would get along but Sancho of Castile thought it was his right to rule because he was the oldest and began fighting his brothers and sisters for their kingdoms. He eventually reconquered all his father’s old lands except for Zamora.
In 1072, Sancho I died mysteriously and his younger brother, Alfonso, was recalled from exile in Toledo. Alfonso assumed the throne of Leon and Castile. Many Castilian nobles did not like the idea of a king from Leon in a position of authority over them, while others suspected Alfonso of murdering King Sancho. Some historians think that the nobles, including Rodrigo, forced King Alfonso to swear near the church of Saint Agatha that he did not murder his brother, Sancho, although there is little evidence of this event actually ever having taken place. Although he served Alfonso faithfully in the ensuing years, even marrying one of Alfonso’s relatives, Rodrigo was exiled in 1079, possibly because he was accused of pocketing some tributary money but also because many nobles disliked him because of the favoritism the King had shown him.
During his exile he served as a mercenary to both Christians and Moors alike. In 1086, the people known as the Almoravids, who were Berbers and religious zealots, led by Yusef bni Tashufin from Morocco, declared a Jihad against all Christians and weak Muslims and invaded Spain terrorizing Muslims and Christians. Alfonso terrified by the Almoravid invasion recalled El Cid from exile after he suffered a crushing defeat at their hands. In 1090 Rodrigo, then operating as a vassal for King Alfonso, began to maneuver to establish his own kingdom in Valencia by leading his own army of Christians and Muslims in an invasion. After a lengthy siege he was able to successfully subdue the city and ruled as king of Valencia until his death in 1098. Despite the fact that he was shot by a stray arrow in 1098, there is a legend that says even after his death El Cid led his troops into battle one last time. His body was strapped to his horse and was sent charging against the advancing Moors one last time. Many people have different opinions of El Cid. While some view him as a hostile conqueror, others see him as just another knight. But many see him as one of the greatest Spanish heroes of all time because of his loyalty to the Spanish Kings. Today El Cid is buried in the city of Burgos Spain near Vivar. Tthe Cathedral he is buried in is dedicated to him and many of the monuments there are in his honor. His sword, the Spanish Tizona, is now housed in the Royal Armory in Madrid
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