El Cid Biography
CID, THE, or CID CAMPEADOR, (Sp., Lord Conqueror). The name given in histories, traditions, and songs to the most celebrated of Spain's national heroes. There is so much of the mythical in the history of this personage that hypercritical writers, such as Masdeu, have doubted his existence; but recent researches, more particularly those of Dozy, and the investigation of newly discovered Arabic sources, have succeeded in separating the historical from the romantic. The following is the result of these inquiries: Rodrigo or Ruy Diaz (Roderic the son of Diego), generally known as Ruy Diaz de Bivar, was descended from one of the proudest families of Castile. His name first appears in a document written in 1064, during the reign of Ferdinand the Great of León. Under Sancho II, son of Ferdinand, he became standard bearer and commander of the royal troops. In a war between the two brothers, Sancho II and Alfonso VI of León, it was a stratagem of Roderic's--which, according to modern notions, was anything but honerable--that secured the victory of Sancho at Llantada over his brother, who was forced to seek refuge with the Moorish King of Toledo (1071). He appears at this time to have already been called the Campeador, a word supposed to answer to our "champion."
Upon the assassination of his friend and patron, King Sancho, he required the next heir, Alfonso, to clear himself by oath of any participation in his brother's murder ere the nobles of León and Castile should do homage to him. By this act he incurred the new monarch's enmity; an enmity which, however, the politic King concealed in the hour of danger, even consenting to Roderic's marriage with his cousin Ximena, daughter of Diego, Count of Oviedo. But when the King thought the services of Roderic no longer necessary to his own safety, he lent a willing ear to the latter's personal enemies, and banished him in 1081. Roderic then joined the Moorish King of Saragossa, in whose service he fought against both Moslems and Christians. He frequently defeated the King of Aragón and the Count of Barcelona the latter of whom, Berenguer Ramón II, he took prisoner.
He was again reconciled to the King, but only for a short time, when he was condemned to a second exile. In order to support his family and numerous followers, he now saw himself forced to carry his sword against the Moors over whom he gained a victory, and established himself as sovereign or lord of Valencia (1094). He retained possession of Valencia five years, during which time he took many neighboring fortresses. The Cid, with only his own lance and his small band of faithful followers, had made better headway in the reconquest of Spain from the Moors than had Alfonso with the powerful Kingdom of Castile to support him; and not only Spain, but the rest of Christendom knew it. The doughty warrior died of grief in 1099, on learning that his relative and comrade in arms, Alvar Fañez, had been vanquished by the Moors, and that the army which he had sent to his assistance had been defeated near Alcira. After the Cid's death his widow held Valencia till 1102. When at last she was obliged to capitulate to the Almoravides, and flee to Castile, where she died in 1104, she set fire to the city, and took with her the embalmed body of the Cid, mounted on his war horse Babieca. So ran a legend that gained currency some time after the event. As a matter of fact, Ximena, after holding the city for nearly three years, was obliged to call upon her cousin the Emperor for aid. He went with a strong army, but having no man able to hold the city, he set fire to it, took Ximena with him, and carried away the remains of the Cid, surrounded by his former vassals as a guard of honor. Ximena's remains were placed by those of her lord in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, near Burgos. We have no historical evidence in support of the Santiago Genealogía and Crónicas which state that the Cid had a son, who was slain by the Moors in a battle near Consuegra in 1081. But he did leave behind him two daughters, one of whom was married to the Count of Barcelona, the other to the Infante of Navarre, through whom the kings of Spain claim kindred with "Mio Cid el Campeador," as do also the British royal family (through Eleanor of Castile), and the French Bourbons and the Hapsburgers. Relics of the "Blessed Cid," as he is still called in Spain, such as his sword, shield, banner, and drinking cup, are still held in great reverence by the populace.
About 1140, hence only about 40 years after the Cid's death, a poem was composed in his honor, the Poema del Cid, also called the Cantar de Mio Cid. This is the oldest of the great Spanish epics that has reached us practically complete. It has survived in a single manuscript, which is incomplete at the beginning; but from other sources we know practically what the missing part contained and about how long it was. As we have it the Poema amounts to 3735 verses, which compares favorably in length with the 4001 verses of the Chanson de Roland. It has a unity of composition and spirit which makes it evident that the poem is not a pastiche of many smaller poems more or less dexterously woven into one, but that it is one great composition, carefully thought out and planned so that the various parts balance properly. It represents the Cid as immutably faithful to an unjust sovereign. It has been thought by some that the character of the Cid of the Poema is largely antihistorical. This is true only in part. And yet the unknown poet who gave us this masterpiece was dexterous enough to create a type of character which, although in some respects antihistorical, none the less so thoroughly harmonizes with the spirit of the nation that the type which he created, and not the rigidly historical type, has become the universally accepted type for the Spanish national hero. Most epic poems contain a vast amount of the supernatural or the marvelous. The only supernatural incident in the Poema is the consoling dream in which the angel Gabriel appears and promises success the night before the Cid leaves Christian territory and enters the land of the enemy; and the incident is related in eight verses. And the marvelous is entirely absent from the account of the deeds of valor of the various knights in the Cid's band. English readers are fortunate in possessing more than one English rendering. John Hookam Frere, sometime British Minister to Spain, made a verse translation of six passages, prefacing each one with a brief synopsis of what leads up to the selection. Later John Ormsby made a condensed translation in prose of the less poetic passages, and a ringing verse translation of all the others. In 1901 Archer Milton Huntington published a complete line for line translation, the merits of, which vary in accord with the merits of the original. The numerous Cid romances that were first published in the sixteenth century contain the most romantic improbabilities concerning the life and deeds of the Cid. Consult Silva de varios romances (1550) and Romancero general (1604) . These romances were taken from the ancient cantares (national songs) and poemas, most of which are entirely lost.
The New International Encyclopaedia ,Vol. V (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 325-326.