Source: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.
Unlike some of the other heroes told about in this book, the Cid was a
real man, whose name was Rodrigo Diaz, or Ruydiez. He was born in
Burgos in the eleventh century and won the name of "Cid," which means
"Conqueror," by defeating five Moorish kings. This happened after
Spain had been in the hands of the Arabs for more than three hundred
years, so it is small wonder that the Spaniards looked upon their hero
as a very remarkable man.
When Rodrigo was still a youth, his father, Diego Laynez, was grossly
insulted by Don Gomez. The custom in those days was to avenge such an
insult by slaying the offender; but Diego was too old and feeble to
bear arms. When he finally told his son of the wrong, Rodrigo sought
out Don Gomez and challenged him to fight. So bravely and skilfully
did Rodrigo manage his weapons that he slew his father's enemy. Then
he cut off the head and carried it to Diego.
Soon after this Diego bade his son do homage at King Ferdinand's
court. Rodrigo appeared before the king, but his bearing was so
defiant that Ferdinand was frightened, and banished him.
Rodrigo departed with three hundred followers, encountered some Moors,
who were invading Castile, defeated them and took five of their kings
captive, releasing them only after they had promised to pay tribute
and to refrain from further warfare. It was these kings who first
called him "Cid."
In return for his brave service Rodrigo was restored to favor and
given place among the king's courtiers.
One day Dona Ximena, daughter of Don Gomez, appeared and demanded
justice from the king. Recognizing Rodrigo among the courtiers, she
called to him to slay her also. But both demand and cry were unheeded,
for the king had been too well served by Rodrigo to listen to any
accusation against him.
Three times the maiden returned with the same request, and each time
she came she heard greater praise of the young hero. At last she
decided to alter her demand. A fourth time she returned, consenting to
forego all thoughts of vengeance if the king would order the young
hero to marry her. The Cid was very willing, for he had learned to
love the girl, admiring her beauty and spirit.
The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and the king gave Rodrigo
four cities as a marriage portion. Rodrigo, vowing that he would not
be worthy of his wife until he had won five battles, after a pious
pilgrimage to the shrine of the patron saint, hastened off to
Calahorra, a frontier town claimed by two kings--the kings of Castile
It had been decided that the dispute over the town should be settled
by combat. Rodrigo became the champion of Ferdinand of Castile. The
other champion, Martin Gonzalez, began, as soon as the combat opened,
to taunt the Cid.
"Never again will you mount your favorite steed Babieca," he said,
"never will you return to your castle; never will you see your beloved
But the Cid was undaunted, and had soon laid his enemy low. Great
praise then was given to the Cid--so great that the knights of Castile
were jealous and plotted to kill him. But the Moorish kings whom he
had captured and released warned him in time to avert the danger.
Then the Cid aided Ferdinand in defeating the hostile Moors in
Estremadura, after a siege of Coimbra lasting seven months. Several
other victories over his country's enemies were added to this, and
then Rodrigo returned to his beloved wife.
But not for long was he permitted to remain in the quiet of home.
Henry III, Emperor of Germany, complained to the Pope that King
Ferdinand had refused to acknowledge his superiority. The Pope sent a
message to Ferdinand, demanding homage and tribute. The demand angered
both Ferdinand and the Cid.
"Never yet have we done homage," cried the Cid, "and shall we now bow
to a stranger?"
A proud refusal was then sent to the Pope, and he, knowing of no
better way to settle the dispute, bade Henry send a champion to meet
Rodrigo. The emperor's champion was, of course, defeated, and all of
Ferdinand's enemies were so awed by the outcome of the fight that none
ever again demanded homage or tribute. Rodrigo was, indeed, a very
useful subject. When Ferdinand died, he was succeeded by his son, Don
Sancho. The latter, planning a visit to Rome, selected the Cid to
accompany him. Arriving, they found that in the preparations that had
been made for their reception a lower seat had been prepared for Don
Sancho than for the King of France. The Cid would not suffer such a
slight, and became so violent that the Pope excommunicated him.
Nevertheless, the seats were made of equal height, and the Cid, who
was a good Catholic, humbled himself before the Pope and was forgiven.
It was an age of great wars, and the Cid aided his king in many a
brave fight. At last, in the siege of Zamora, the king was
treacherously murdered, and, as he had no sons, Don Alfonso, his
brother, succeeded. When he arrived at Zamora the Cid refused to
acknowledge Alfonso until he should swear that he had no part in the
murder. The king, angered by the Cid's attitude, plotted revenge.
Opportunity came during a war with the Moors, and the Cid was banished
upon a slight pretext.
"I obey, O king," replied the Cid, when he heard the decree. "I am
more ready to serve you than you are to reward me. I pray that you may
never more in battle need the right arm and sword that so often served
Then the Cid rode away, through a crowd of weeping people, and camped
outside of the city until he could make definite plans. The people
longed to bring him food or offer him shelter, but they feared the
displeasure of the king. One old man, however, crept outside of the
city with food, declaring that he cared "not a fig" for Alfonso's
The Cid needed money, and to get it he pledged two locked coffers to
some Jews. The Jews in those days were much despised by the
Christians, though usually very wealthy. The men, thinking that the
boxes contained vast treasures, when in reality they were filled with
sand, advanced the Cid 600 marks of gold. Then the hero bade farewell
to his wife and children and rode away, vowing that he would return,
covered with glory and carrying with him rich spoils.
Within two weeks' time the Cid and his little band of followers had
captured two Moorish strongholds and carried off much spoil. The Cid
then prepared a truly royal present and sent it to the king. Alfonso,
upon receiving the gift, pardoned the Cid, and published an edict
permitting all who wished to join in the fight against the Moors to
join Rodrigo and his band.
Toledo, thanks to the valor of the Cid, soon fell into the hands of
Alfonso, but a misunderstanding arose and the king insulted the Cid.
The latter, in great rage, left the army and made a sudden raid on
Castile. Then the Moors, knowing that the Cid had departed, took
courage and captured Valencia. But the Cid, hearing of the disaster,
promptly returned, recaptured the city, and sent a message to Alfonso
asking for his wife and daughters. At the same time he sent more than
the promised sum of money to the Jews, who up to this time had not
learned that the coffers were filled with sand. To the messenger he
"Tell them, that although they can find nothing in the coffers but
sand, they will find that the pure gold of my truth lies beneath the
As the Cid was now master of Valencia, and of vast wealth, his
daughters were sought in marriage by many suitors, and the marriage of
both girls was celebrated with great splendor. But the Counts of
Carrion, their husbands, were not brave men like the Cid, and after
lingering at Valencia in idleness for two years, their weakness was
One evening while the Cid was sleeping, a lion broke loose from his
private menagerie and entered the room where he lay. The two princes,
who were playing in the room, fled, one in his haste falling into an
empty vat, and the other taking refuge behind the Cid's couch. The
roaring of the lion wakened the Cid, and jumping up he seized his
sword, caught the lion by the mane, led it back to its cage, and
calmly returned to his place.
The cowardly conduct of the Counts of Carrion roused the anger of the
Cid's followers, and in the siege of Valencia that followed their
conduct brought only contempt. When the Moors were finally driven away
the counts asked permission to return home with their brides and
So the Cid parted from his daughters, weeping at the loss. The
procession started. The first morning the counts sent their escorts
ahead, and, left alone with their wives, stripped them of their
garments, beat them and kicked them, and left them for dead. But Felez
Munoz, a loyal follower of the Cid's, riding back, found the two
wives, bound up their wounds and obtained shelter for them in the
house of a poor man whose wife and daughters promised to nurse them.
Then he rode on to tell the Cid. The Cid swore that he would be
avenged, and as Alfonso was responsible for the marriage, he applied
to him for redress.
The king, who had long since forgiven the Cid and learned to value his
services, was very angry. A battle was finally arranged. The Counts of
Carrion and their uncle were defeated and banished, and the Cid
returned in triumph to Valencia. Here his daughters' second marriage
The Moors returned five years later, and the Cid was prepared to meet
them when he received a vision of St. Peter, predicting that he would
die within thirty days, but that even though dead he would triumph
over his enemy. He accordingly made preparations for his death, and
after appointing a successor, he gave instructions that none should
weep over his death, and that his body when embalmed should be set
upon his horse, Babieca, and that, with his sword Tizona in his hand,
he should be led on a certain day against the enemy.
The hero died and his successor together with his wife Ximena strove
to carry out his instructions. A battle was planned, and the Cid,
strapped upon his war horse, rode in the van. The Moors, filled with
terror, fled before him.
After the victory the body was placed in the Church of San Pedro de
Cardena, where for ten years it remained seated, in plain view of all.
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