The man, the myth, the legend, El Cid. He was a Castilian Knight in medieval Spain who rose to power, lost his power, became an enemy of his homeland, and eventually came to rule his own land.
Even though peasants considered El Cid (real name: Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar) one of their own, he didn’t exactly come from humble beginnings. His father was a member of the king’s court, and his mother’s family were high up in society, as well.
El Cid is as much legend as he was a man, and much of what we know of him is obscured by the stories told about him which turned him into a folk hero.
But this isn’t a story, here come some facts!
8 Interesting Facts About El Cid
1. He has an epic poem about him
The story that turned Rodrigo into the legendary El Cid, “El Cantar de Mio Cid,” or “The Poem of My Lord” is the oldest surviving epic poem to come out of Spain, an interesting fact about El Cid. The story starts part way into El Cid’s life, starting with his exile from Spain. He leaves with nothing but a loyal crew, and ventures out to conquer the Arabian lands near Spain to regain his honor.
Eventually, he conquers enough land to regain favor with the king of Spain. The king requests that El Cid’s daughters marry the princes of Carrion, who turn out to be awful people that abuse their princesses. The princes are sentenced to trial by combat, and when they lose, they lose all of their money, power, and property. El Cid’s daughters marry some other kings, and they all live happily ever after.
2. He was known by many names
We’ve already mentioned his full name, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, and the name the Moors (Arabs in medieval Spain area) called him, El Cid, which translates to The Lord, but there are a few more names he went by.
He had a nickname, so if Rodrigo was too formal for someone, they could call him Ruy, a name he goes by in a 1980s anime about El Cid’s childhood. While the Moors called him El Cid, the Christians had a different name for him, El Campeador, which means “The Battlefielder” or “The Warrior.” Truly, he was a fierce fighter to earn a title like that.
3. He was exiled from Spain
El Cid had a complicated relationship with King Alfonso, to say the least. It all started with Alfonso’s father, King Ferdinand. El Cid served Ferdinand, but when Ferdinand died, he left part of the kingdom to Alfonso, and the other, smaller part to Alfonso. The brothers waged war on each other, and El Cid took Sancho’s side. Then Sancho died, with no children, leaving Alfonso as the only possible heir.
El Cid then served Alfonso, but lost his title as a friend of the king, and his influence declined. He was naturally bitter about that, especially since he was made to marry Alfonso’s niece, allying El Cide to the royal line. El Cid acted against the will of the king one too many times, and so he was exiled.
4. His war tactics were unique at the time
With a title like “The Warrior,” El Cid has to be a good fighter, right? But what exactly did he do to stand out. An interesting fact about El Cid is that he turns out he was one of the first generals to engage in psychological warfare. He fought, not just with the body, but with the mind. For example, he would make the enemy think he was going to attack, but not actually attack so that the enemy would get nervous, or think they were safe. Then, when the enemy least expected, El Cid would attack, quickly and viciously.
He also relied on teamwork. Before every battle, he would meet with his men and brainstorm strategies. He supported teamwork in his troops.
5. His warhorse was very important to him
El Cid had his own special warhorse named Babieca, a fun fact about El Cid. There are a few different origin stories to this horse. One story says he was a small, weak horse he picked out from a monastery as a present and raised into a strong warhorse. Another story says Babieca was already a strong warhorse, and El Cid got him as part of the fight to become the King’s champion. Yet another story says the horse was a gift from a Barbarian.
Regardless, it’s clear that El Cid cared deeply for the horse, as some accounts say he asked to be buried with the horse.
6. He has inspired many works of media
That’s right, “El Cantar de Mio Cid” wasn’t the end of media inspired by El Cid. El Cid has shown up in works of fiction from the 12th Century all the way up until 2016. He was written about in several plays, several operas, two films, and anime, a Spanish sci-fi show, and the games Age of Empires and Medieval Total War.
7. He wasn’t loyal to just one king
As mentioned before, El Cid only served Alfonso when Sancho died, but that wasn’t the end of his swapping loyalties. Once El Cid was exiled, he started serving the Moor and fighting against the kingdom he had once been a part of. During this time, he learned the politics of the land and Arabic laws.
Eventually, El Cid was pardoned, and stayed briefly with Alfonso before conquering Valencia and ruling his own land, which was open to both Arabs and Christians. He ruled for Alfonso in name only.
8. Canon El Cid was Different than the Legend
As you can probably tell, the legend of El Cid was different than the actual man. During his exile, instead of conquering Moorish lands to regain favor with the king, he fights against the king until he is pardoned. The whole bit about his daughters marrying abusive husbands doesn’t seem to be true, and the story makes him out to be very hesitant to fight for Sancho, when this doesn’t seem to be the case, an interesting El Cid fact.
El Cid was a great warrior and great leader, he served many men, but most importantly, he served himself. He came to rule his own land. He lived in Valencia from 1094 to 1099, when he died. But, his legend will live on.
I hope that this article on El Cid facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!