Biography and Facts of EI Cid, Medieval Spanish Hero

The  CID (c.1030-1099) is the national hero of Spain in whose story history and myth are entangled. Born Rodrigo Díaz, probably at Vivar (Burgos), and known in his lifetime as ‘Cid Campeador’ (‘Seyd’, lord; ‘Campeador’, champion), he rose to fame through military prowess in the service of the future Sancho II of Castile against fellow Christian princes and Moors.

He fights champions in single combat to restore his family’s honor. When King Alfonso betrays him, he does not return the slight and endures five years of exile with courage and humility. He wins the respect of the Moors as well as the Christians and conquers the Moorish city of Valencia. As the conqueror of Valencia he might have declared himself a king, but instead maintained his loyalty to Alfonso. He might have treated his conquered subjects with cruelty but instead won their trust. He might have strayed from his wife but was a faithful husband as well as a loyal subject.

The Song of Cid is not just the story of a warrior, but that of an ideal hero of chivalry. His principal feat was the capture in 1094 of Valencia from the Moors after a siege of nine months. He died after doing all he could for some five years to consolidate his hold on Valencia and its hinterland.

In myth, he has been transformed into a paragon of knightly and Christian virtue, and patriotic zeal. His achievements are narrated in the early 13th-century Poema Demio Cid: Poem of the Cid (the sole surviving full-length Spanish “epic poem, consisting of some 3,700 lines), in Spanish chronicles of the 14th century, and in numerous ballads.

The chronicles relating to him were translated by Robert Southey (1808). The Cid is the subject of Corneille’s most famous
play. His wife was called Ximena.