Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar: El Cid Campeador

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as El Cid Campeador, was the great hero of the chivalrous age of Spain. Probably of Visigoth descent, he was born at Burgos around 1040 and died at Valencia in 1099. He was given the title of “Cid” (lord, chief) by his enemy, the Moors, and that of campeador by his Christian countrymen. The term “campeador” derives from Latin “campi-doctor”, “campi” meaning battles, and “doctor” expert; hence “campeador” means champion of battles.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar was a gifted military leader and diplomat who, after being exiled, conquered and governed the city of Valencia. El Cid was educated in the royal court of Castile and became chief general of Alfonso VI, and his most valuable asset in the fight against the Moors. Historical records show that El Cid’s father Diego Laínez was part of the minor nobility (infanzones) of Castile. Diego Laínez was a courtier, bureaucrat, and cavalryman who had fought in several battles. Despite the fact that El Cid’s mother’s family was aristocratic, in later years the peasants would consider him one of their own.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar first fought alongside king Sancho II against the Muslim stronghold of Zargosa. Later Sancho II was assassinated by the king’s brother Alfonso and his sister Urraca. But Sancho died childless and Alfonso was recalled from exile and took the throne of Castile and Leon. Because Alfonso was suspected in Castile of having murdered his brother Sancho, El Cid forced Alfonso to swear several times in front of Agatha Church in Burgos that he did not conspire to kill his brother.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar defeated the Emir Abd Allah of Granada in 1079. However, this angered king Alfonso, as it was an unauthorized expedition, and Rodrigo was forced to go into exile. His son, Diego Rodriguez was killed while fighting the invading Muslim Almorabids from northern Africa at the Battle of Consuegra. Later, El Cid was killed in battle, too, in Valencia in 1099 as another wave of Islamic invasion from North Africa threatened the Christian kingdoms. His wife Gimena fled to Castile with her husband body. It would not become a Christian city again for over 125 years.