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Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 10 July 1099) was a Castilian knight and warlord in medieval Spain. Fighting with both Christian and Muslim armies during his lifetime, he earned the Arabic honorific al-sīd, which would evolve into El Cid ("the lord"), and the Spanish moniker El Campeador ("the champion"). He was born in Vivar, a village near the city of Burgos. As the head of his loyal knights, he came to dominate the Levante of the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 11th century. He reclaimed the Taifa of Valencia from Moorish control for a brief period during the Reconquista, ruling the principality as its Prince until his death in 1099.

Díaz de Vivar became well known for his service in the armies of both Christian and Muslim rulers. After his death, El Cid became Spain's celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de mio Cid, which presents him as the ideal medieval knight: strong, valiant, loyal, just, and pious.

To this day, El Cid remains a popular Spanish folk hero and national icon, with his life and deeds remembered in popular culture.[1]

Etymology: Cid and Campeador

Rodrigo Díaz was recognized with the honorary title of "Campeador" during his lifetime, as is evidenced by a document that he signed in 1098, which he signed in the Latinized expression, "Ego Rudericus Campidoctor" or "I Rodrigo Campeador." The title "Campeador" comes from the Latin "Campidoctor," literally meaning "Teacher of the Field" but can be translated as "Master of the Battlefield." Arabic sources from the late 11th century and early 12th century call him الكنبيطور (alkanbīṭūr), القنبيطور (alqanbīṭūr), and also Rudriq or Ludriq al-Kanbiyatur or al-Qanbiyatur, which are Arabized forms of Rodrigo Campidoctor.

The epithet of "El Cid" (Spanish pronunciation: [el̟ˈθið]), meant the Lord probably from the original Arabic, (Arabic: السَّيِّد, romanized: al-Sayyid) and was a title given to other Christian leaders. It has been conjectured that Rodrigo Díaz received the honorific title and respectful treatment of contemporaries in Zaragoza because of his victories in the service of the King of the Taifa of Zaragoza between 1081 and 1086; however, he more likely received the epithet after his conquest of Valencia in 1094. This title appears for the first time, as "Meo Çidi," in the Poema de Almería, composed between 1147 and 1149.

The combination of "Cid Campeador" is documented from 1195 in Linaje de Rodrigo Díaz (The Lineage of Rodrigo Díaz) in Navarro-Aragonese which form part of the Liber regum written as "mio Cit el Campiador"; and in El Cantar de mio Cid.


Born a member of the minor nobility, El Cid was brought up at the court of Ferdinand the Great and served Ferdinand's son, Sancho II of León and Castile. He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho's ascension in 1065. El Cid went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of León and García II of Galicia, as well as in the Muslim kingdoms in al-Andalus. He became renowned for his military prowess in these campaigns, which helped expand the territory of the Crown of Castile at the expense of the Muslims and Sancho's brothers' kingdoms. When conspirators murdered Sancho in 1072, El Cid found himself in a difficult situation. Since Sancho was childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, whom El Cid had helped remove from power. Although El Cid continued to serve the sovereign, he lost his ranking in the new court, which treated him suspiciously and kept him at arm's length. Finally, in 1081, he was exiled.

El Cid found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he defended from its traditional enemy, Aragon. While in exile, he regained his reputation as a strategist and formidable military leader. He was repeatedly victorious in battle against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, an expeditionary army of North African Almoravids inflicted a severe defeat to Castile, compelling Alfonso to overcome the resentment he harboured against El Cid. The terms for El Cid's return to Christian service must have been attractive enough since El Cid soon found himself fighting for his former lord. Over the next several years, however, El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso, while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, Yahya al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. When the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of Al-Cádir, El Cid responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094, and El Cid established an independent principality on the Mediterranean coast of Iberia. He ruled over a pluralistic society with the popular support of Christians and Muslims alike.

El Cid's final years were spent fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted upon them their first major defeat in 1094, on the plains of Caurte, outside Valencia, and continued opposing them until his death. Although El Cid remained undefeated in Valencia, Diego Rodríguez, his only son and heir, died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid's death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she was eventually forced to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102.

In literature, music, and fiction

The figure of El Cid has been the source for many literary works, beginning with the Cantar de mio Cid, an epic poem from the 12th century which gives a partly-fictionalized account of his life, and was one of the early chivalric romances. This poem, along with similar later works such as the Mocedades de Rodrigo, contributed to portray El Cid as a chivalric hero of the Reconquista, making him a legendary figure in Spain. In the early 17th century, the Spanish writer Guillén de Castro wrote a play called Las Mocedades del Cid, on which French playwright Pierre Corneille based one of his most famous tragicomedies, Le Cid. He was also a popular source of inspiration for Spanish writers of the Romantic period, such as Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch, who wrote La Jura de Santa Gadea, or José Zorrilla, who wrote a long poem called La Leyenda del Cid. In 2019, Arturo Pérez-Reverte published the novel entitled Sidi: Un relato de frontera.

Herman Melville references El Cid when introducing the character of Samoa in Chapter 21 of Mardi (1849): "He alighted about six paces from where we stood, and balancing his weapon, eyed us bravely as the Cid".

Georges Bizet worked on Don Rodrigue in 1873 that was set aside and never completed. Jules Massenet wrote an opera, Le Cid, in 1885, based on Corneille's play of the same name. Claude Debussy began work in 1890 on an opera, Rodrigue et Chimène, which he abandoned as unsuitable for his temperament; it was orchestrated for performance by Edison Denisov circa 1993.

In 1980, Ruy, the Little Cid was an animated series based on El Cid's childhood made by Nippon Animation.

El Cid was described to inspire Ferny about his Spanish heritage in "The Legend of Raloo", episode 16 of season 1 of Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks in 2004.

In the second Age of Empires video game installment, The Conquerors expansion pack, there is a campaign starring El Cid Campeador.


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