El Sid was born Rodrigo Diaz 1043AD in Vivar.
Born a member of the minor nobility, his parents brought him up at the court of Ferdinand the Great.
He served Ferdinand’s son, Sancho II of Leon and Castile.
He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer of Castile upon Sancho’s ascension in 1065.
The Spaniards called him Campeador, or Champion. The Saracens called him “The Cid,” or Lord. His real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, but he is usually spoken of as “The Sid.”
Since Sancho died childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, the same whom El Cid had helped remove from power.
Political Situation in Europe
The Goths, after the death of Alaric, had taken Spain away from the Romans.
The Saracens, or, as they were usually called, the Moors, had crossed the sea from Africa and in turn had taken Spain from the Goths.
In the time of Charles Martel the Goths had lost all Spain except the small mountain district in the northern part.
In the time of the El Sid the Goths, now called Spaniards, had driven the Moors down to about the middle of Spain.
War went on all the time between the two races, and many men spent their lives in fighting.
The Spanish part of the country then comprised the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and others.
Champion of Kingdom of Castile
The El Sid was a subject of Fernando of Castile.
Fernando had a dispute with the king of Aragon about a city which each claimed.
They agreed to decide the matter by a combat.
Each choose their respective champion.
The king whose champion won was to have the city.
Fernando chose the EL Sid, and he fought the bravest knight in Spain and won.
EL Sid Exile
When Alfonzo, a son of Fernando, succeeded to the throne, he became angry with the Cid without just cause and banished him from Christian Spain.
The El Sid needs some money, so he filled two chests with sand and sent word to two wealthy money lenders that he wished to borrow six hundred Spanish marks.
The money lenders must solemnly swear not to open the chests until a full year had passed.
To this they gladly agreed. They took the chests and loaned him six hundred marks.
The Cid was now ready for his journey.
Three hundred of his knights went into banishment with him.
They crossed the mountains and entered the land of the Moors.
Ruler of Alcocer
Soon they reached the town of Alcocer, and after a siege captured it and lived in it.
Then the Moorish king of Valencia ordered two chiefs to take three thousand horsemen, recapture the town and bring the El Sid alive to him.
So the Cid and his men were shut up in Alcocer and besieged.
Famine threatened them and they determined to cut their way through the army of the Moors.
Suddenly and swiftly they poured from the gate of Alcocer, and fought a terrible battle.
He took prisoners two Moorish chiefs and killed thirteen hundred of their men in the battle.
The EL Sid then became a vassal of the Moorish king of Saragossa.
EL Sid Return
After a while Alfonzo recalled the Cid from banishment and gave him seven castles and the lands adjoining them.
He needed the El Sid’s help in the greatest of all his plans against the Moors.
King wants him to capture Toledo.
El Sid attacked it with a large army in which there were soldiers from many foreign lands.
The Cid is said to have been the commander.
After a long siege the city fell and the victorious army marched across the great bridge built by the Moors, which you would cross to-day if you went to Toledo.
El Sid Conquer Valencia
Valencia was one of the largest and richest cities in Moorish Spain. Moors strongly fortified the city, but the El Sid determined to attack it.
Streams that came down from the neighboring hills irrigated the plain about the city.
To prevent the Cid’s army from coming near the city the Saracens flooded the plain.
But the Cid camped on high ground above the plain and from that point besieged the city.
Food became very scarce in Valencia.
Wheat, barley and cheese were all so dear that none but the rich could buy them.
People ate horses, dogs, cats and mice, until in the whole city only three horses and a mule were left alive.
Then on the fifteenth of June, 1094, the governor went to the camp of the Cid and delivered to him the keys of the city.
The Cid placed his men in all the forts and took the citadel as his own dwelling.
His banner floated from the towers. He called himself the Prince of Valencia.
Defense of Valencia
When the king of Morocco heard of this he raised an army of fifty thousand men.
They crossed from Africa to Spain and laid siege to Valencia.
But the Cid with his men made a sudden sally and routed them and pursued them for miles.
It is said that fifteen thousand soldiers were drowned in the river Gua-dal-qui-vir’ which they tried to cross.
The Cid was now at the height of his power and lived in great magnificence.
One of the first things he did was to repay the two friends who had lent him the six hundred marks.
He treated Saracens in kind and just manners who choose to become his subjects.
They were allowed to have their mosques and to worship God as they thought right.
El Sid Last days
In time the Cid’s health began to fail. He could lead his men forth to battle no more.
He sent an army against the Moors. Moors defeated his army and very few of his men came back to tell the tale.
There is a legend that shortly before he died he saw a vision of St. Peter, who told him that he should gain a victory over the Saracens after his death.
El Sid Last Charge
So the Cid gave orders that his body should be embalmed. They preserved his body so well that it seemed alive.
His family clothed his body in a coat of mail. They placed in his hand the sword that had won so many battles.
Then it was mounted upon the Cid’s favorite horse and fastened into the saddle, and at midnight was borne out of the gate of Valencia with a guard of a thousand knights.
All silently they marched to a spot where the Moorish king, with thirty-six chieftains, lay encamped, and at daylight the knights of the El Sid made a sudden attack.
The king awoke. It seemed to him that there were coming against him full seventy thousand knights, all dressed in robes as white as snow.
Before them rode a knight, taller than all the rest, holding in his left hand a snow-white banner and in the other a sword which seemed of fire.
So afraid were the Moorish chief and his men that they fled to the sea, and twenty thousand of them were drowned as they tried to reach their ships.
There is a Latin inscription near the tomb of the Cid which may be translated:
Brave and unconquered, famous in triumphs of war,
Enclosed in this tomb lies Roderick the Great of Bivar.