War was his business, no question. But what is the story of Rodrigo Vivar’s truth and what is a transfigured adventure story from the time of the Reconquista, can be very difficult to distinguish. In any case, Rodrigo, son of Diego was born in Spain around 1045 and died in 1099 in a battle against the North African Almoravids in the defense of Valencia, which he had just reconquered.
In the struggle of Christians against the Moors and Arabs, who raged in the Middle Ages for centuries on the Iberian Peninsula, the knight played a dazzling role. With his Castilian King Alfonso VI. was the Cid – a derivative of his Arabic nickname the Lord – violently divided, he led a small independent mercenary troupe and mastered with these robber barons very cleverly the newly conquered area around Valencia.
With his Christian knights, who he ran as a kind of warlord, Rodrigo strengthened his position against his adversary, King Alfonso VI. He alleged that he was guilty of the death of his brother Sancho II, who had been one of Rodrigo’s confidants. Alfonso then withdrew the possessions Rodrigo and took him all honorary titles, including that of the standard-bearer.
He played Jews, Christians and Muslims against each other
The struggle for the restoration of his honor was henceforth the main motivation for all the battles that the Cid played with its more than one hundred armored knights.
His position of power in the region of Valencia grew more and more and with his miracle sword La Tizona he beat the leader of the Almoravids in the battle for the city: According to the legend he split the head of the general Fariz with a blow and divided its trunk up to the hip. The blow was so powerful that even the rubies on his opponent’s helmet jumped.
In 1094, the North Africans capitulated, and Rodrigo ruled Valencia like a king and even interfered in the Spanish throne policy from there.
He made the main mosque of the city a Christian church and played off the interests of Jews, Christian Mozarabs and the anti-Almoravid Arabs against each other. With Alfonso VI. He tried to reconcile himself by giving his daughters to some of his followers. Again he landed in the trap of honor. The new husbands behaved so badly that the Cid had to send their best knights on their necks to free their daughters from their plight.
The Spaniards have given him the epithet Campeador, the fighter. The legend of the victorious warrior in the battle against the Almoravids fits in with this. Before his death, he is said to have made his followers promise to definitely go into battle with him. His body was therefore tied to his horse with a lath construction when he died. So the dead Cid stormed ahead with his sword drawn and this sight allegedly drove the attackers out.
His wife Jimena was able to take over control of Valencia for a short time. She later rode with the body of the Cid to Burgos, where today reminds a monumental monument in heroic pose to the knights.
The cid was a much more complex character than the heroic stories revealed. So he was not a staunch Christian who argued for his religion. In between, he even served the Muslim prince al-Mu’tamin of Zaragoza. In his service, he commanded at times a highly armed warriors force, with which he also operated against Christian opponents. His fighters financed themselves primarily from the booty and ransom.
Charlton Heston rode the escape route of the Cid on a donkey
But after his death, the Transfiguration of the knight began. The ancient Spanish epic, written around 1235, is considered the earliest testimony of Spanish national literature and inspired many poets and composers. For example, in 1779 Pierre Corneille wrote a tragicomic epic about the hero and Johann Gottfried Herder 1805 the ballad about a Spanish knight. Jules Massenet and Claude Debussy composed operas in 1885 and 1893 about the famous warrior.
Of the frequent change of front and the fight of the Cid for money, power and reputation is in the Nachdichtungen hardly the speech. Only Arno Schmidt made his mark again in 1960 with his daredevil-confusing novel Kaff also Mare Crisium.
Nevertheless, the story of the Cid beyond Spain might be forgotten if not a Hollywood star had paid much attention to it. Charlton Heston even rode a donkey to cover the distance that the Cid had to overcome in his exile, and convinced director Anthony Mann to make a monumental film with him as Cid and Sophia Loren as Jimena in 1961. This movie version adheres to the legend up to the fight of the dead against a superior army.
To this day, it remains uncertain what happened to the riches that the general accumulated over time. Even before Alfonso VI. with the body of Cid and Jimena leaving the burned-down fortress of Valencia, some followers are said to have brought gold and jewelery to safety.
For a long time the legend held that the precious ones had landed in the grave of the Cid in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena in Burgos. But for all treasure hunters, they remained untraceable. This, too, fits in with the mysterious history of the cross-border traveler between the Christian and the Muslim world.