'Saviour' of The Reconquista: El Cid  (Part 1)

April 11, 2022

'Saviour' of The Reconquista: El Cid (Part 1)
Play Episode

"...This man, the scourge of his time, by his appetite for glory, by the prudent steadfastness of his character, and by his heroic bravery:
Was one of the miracles of God". -Ibn Bassam (11th Century Poet) on El Cid

El Cid was a knight in 11th century Spain.

Growing up in the borderlands between two religions, he gained a reputation for military skill and bravery. This led to his nickname Campeador, 'Master Of The Battlefield'.

Today's he's remembered as loyal, merciful and above all, pious. But behind the legends and myths was a very different man.

In this episode, we peel back the layers of this Spanish hero and learn the real story behind the hero of The Reconquista.


  • Did El Cid pull the beard of García Ordóñez?
    • There is no historical proof for this taking place.
  • What does ‘El Cid’ mean?
    • ‘The Lord’. It is a corruption of the Arabic term ‘Sayyid’ which El Cid was likely referred to by his Moorish soldiers (though there is no Islamic sources that support this).

  • Was El Cid from poverty?
    • His family were well-to-do. They were not rich, but were not peasants.

  • Did the infantes of Carrion marry El Cid’s daughters?
    • This story comes from ‘The Poem Of El Cid’. It has no historical accuracy.

  • Was El Cid’s dead body mounted on a horse to lead his men into battle?
    • No. The story likely originates from his wife, Ximena bringing his body back to Castile.

  • Did El Cid fill a treasure chest with sand, and trick his debtors into believing it was filled with gold?
    • This story comes from ‘The Poem Of El Cid’. It has no historical accuracy.

  • Did the swords: Colada and Tizona really belong to El Cid?
    • These swords exist (currently in the Museum of Madrid) but whether they were owned by El Cid is dubious.

  • Was El Cid loyal to King Alphonso VI?
    • El Cid’s loyalty swayed back and forth over his lifetime.

Additional Reading / Sources:


  • A huge thankyou to my generous Patrons! You guys make the show possible!
    • Malcolm G
    • Tom G
    • Claudia K
  • All images are public domain unless stated otherwise.
  • Paid Artlist.io license for 'Anthology Of Heroes Podcast' utilised for numerous sounds/music
  • The Ice Giants by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



It's the year 1099.
On the eastern coast of Spain, the citizens of Valencia endure their third month of misery
under siege.
The once sprawling green countryside dotted with idyllic apple orchards was now a barren
grey wasteland, a dead tree or a burnt out farmhouse the only thing still standing.
The steely army of Yusuf ibn Tashfin crowded around the battered city walls like hyenas
circling a dying lion.
The unending war drums meant no peace and the ebony black soldiers atop their pure white
stallions meant no mercy.
From those inside, the siege and the suffering that came with it was nothing new.
Since the fall of their city to a Christian maverick from the north, the once flourishing
state had known nothing but pain.
Pain from the south, where Berbers sent from North Africa had come, determined to flush
the infidel occupier out.
Pain from the west, court rivals of their lord who dreamt of snatching his prize and
reducing him to ruin, but most of all pain from inside.
Taxes had risen to levels never before seen, food was scarce and disease was rampant.
In a final act of mistrust and humiliation, the Muslims of the city had been made to surrender
any sharpened tools that could be used in rebellion.
Even for the Christian forces loyal to their new sovereign, morale was low.
Rumours about the death of the lord had many wondering what exactly they were dying for.
The man had not been seen in days and his commanders were tight lipped when questioned
about him.
Today, though, they were promised a sight.
Crowding in the main square, the townsfolk waited, jostling to get a good position.
Make way for the Campiodor, make way for El Cid, came a booming voice.
The gatehouse creaked open and flanked by his honour guard came El Cid.
Camouflaged in a stream of brilliant reds and yellows, it was hard to get a good look
at the man.
It seemed the rumours were false, here he was in the flesh.
But if anyone managed to peer past his retinue, past the honour guard crowding him, they would
have noticed that he sat on his saddle, perfectly straight, never moving a muscle.
In fact, he didn't even blink.
The man was dead.
At least, that's how the legend goes.
You're listening to Anthology of Heroes, the podcast sharing the stories from heroes across
the ages, and this is the real story of the Spanish hero, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid.
Welcome back to the show.
Today's episode will be an interesting one indeed.
We've covered all manner of people on this show, but none as strange as El Cid.
The memory of this man is a mosaic of legends and myths.
Myths that have been set apart, broken, morphed and twisted for all kinds of social reasons
over the last 800 years or so since his death.
The man remembered as the Campiodor or master of the battlefield has been the toughest individual
I've researched so far.
In a 12th century poem, he was a pillar of chivalry and all things good.
A few hundred years later, when Spain needed a hero, he was a beacon of Christianity, a
vanquisher of infidels.
Hundreds of years after that, as the old power of Spain crumbled before the new power of
the USA, he was revived as a nationalist, the ideal Spaniard.
And then, once technicolor movies became widespread, his memory was pinched by Hollywood and he
was recast as a suave, blue-eyed, blonde-haired playboy.
But regardless of those who tried to make him into something he wasn't, even once
you scrub away the myths, he was a truly fascinating person.
And he lived during a pivotal point in history, where behind the drama of his day-to-day life,
Spain was changing.
The culture, the religion and the borders were beginning to resemble the Spain we know
So in this episode, we'll learn about the man behind the mask, we'll explore the role
he played in the Reconquista, the so-called re-Christianization of Spain.
This episode is technically part two of a three-part series where we journey through
the Reconquista from three different perspectives.
You can listen to this episode as a standalone episode, there's no issues there, but if
you'd like to hear about the light-speed collapse of the Visigothic kingdom and their
climatic last stand in the mountains of Asturias, it might be worth making your way through
that episode first.
So let's do it, the many faces of El Cid.
We ended our last episode with a victory in the Asturian hills during the 8th century.
Pelayo, the unlikely savior of the Visigoths, had pulled a rabbit out of the hat and beaten
back a Muslim raiding force.
His victory had secured his tiny kingdom of Asturias, but it had not done much else.
The enormous Muslim caliphate still dominated the rest of Spain.
Their next few decades were rocky to say the least.
As historian Richard Fletcher states, quote, the kingdom was small and insecure.
Its economy was simple, its culture unsophisticated.
It was subject to constant harassments from the emirs of Córdoba.
However, it survived, end quote.
But fast forward 300 years later to the 11th century and Spain looked different.
From their last toehold, Pelayo's ancestors crept down from the mountains and saw a very
different people to the ones that had driven them out.
No longer were they unified under a single ruler, no longer were they led by Arabs and
no longer were they as warlike as they once were.
Around 50 years after Pelayo's victory, the Umayyad Caliphate, that's the empire
that ruled almost all of the Islamic world, had started to fall apart and they were eventually
overthrown by a descendant of the prophet Muhammad's uncle.
In the panic that usually follows revolution, members of the old ruling family bolted away
from the old capital, hoping that if they ran far enough, agents of the new regime would
lose their trail.
In the darkest corners of the Islamic world they hid, but one by one they were all captured
and quietly murdered.
All of them except one.
Setting his sights on the furthest outpost of his empire, one of the princes hopped aboard
a boat and ordered a one-way ticket to Andalusia, Spain.
This Umayyad prince would bring to Spain decades of administrative and military discipline
stabilizing and fortifying his new kingdom.
And so this offshoot, this backwater of the Islamic world, was reinvigorated.
Attempts by the new Abbasid Caliphate to annex the region were failures, as were invasions
from the Franks in the north who thought the troubled land would be easy picking.
Slowly the demographic of the land began to change.
Immigration, mainly from North African Berbers, swelled the population.
Religion too started to change.
Richard Fletcher says that by the year 800, about 8% of the population was Muslim.
By the time the year 900 came it had leapt to 25%.
And by the time the new millennia came around in 1000 AD, about 75% of all people in the
Spanish mainland were followers of Islam.
In the very same way that the Visigothic's embrace of Roman Catholic faith helped the
kingdom grow, the same thing happened to the Muslim population.
The self-declared Caliphate of Córdoba, Córdoba being the largest and richest city
in Spain, flourished.
The realm's long periods of peace led to wealthy rulers which led to low taxes which
led to additional cash for the lower rungs of society.
Travelers and merchants from the rest of the Islamic world couldn't believe how loaded
everyone was.
No longer living paycheck to paycheck, the farmers, laymen and artisans began to experiment
with new methods of crop irrigation.
This exploded into what's remembered now as the Arab Agricultural Revolution.
But it didn't stop there.
Literacy rates rose sharply and books became widespread.
Their topics were as diverse as could be, from how to correctly graft new olive trees
to how to construct a new water wheel for irrigation.
Living was widespread and the population was open to bettering themselves.
There's even a short story about a sultan walking past a peasant's shack and noticing
how plump and juicy his melons were.
So he knocks on the door, pulls up a chair and just asks the guy for a bit of advice.
Raw materials were grown in abundance and what couldn't be grown was easily traded
And this led to a growing middle class of leather workers, ceramic crafters, silk weavers
and wood carvers.
The caliphate even boasted its own paper mill, the only one in Europe at the time.
Scholars from both Christian and Muslim countries flocked to Spain where they would study the
language of world commerce, Arabic, at one of its many libraries, one of which supposedly
boasted 400,000 books.
While Europe was largely illiterate and its population only beginning to find their feet
after the fall of the omnipotent Roman Empire, down in Spain scholars worked day and night
translating Chinese, Indian and ancient Greek texts into Arabic, reviving lost knowledge
from the classical world.
With all this wealth flowing into the cities, the petty kings, known as taifas, remember
that word, taifas, spent lavishly on palaces, mosques, swords, trinkets and court poets.
Some of the most jaw-dropping beauties of Spain were built during this period as the
proud taifa kings tried to outdo their neighbors with grandeur.
The Great Mosque of Córdoba was constructed during this time, a building so impressive
that it led to the city being referred to as the ornament of the world.
While the sprawling palace of Medina al-Zaraa dazzled visitors with a light show that seemed
almost supernatural.
According to a diplomat who saw it first-hand, the ruler had hidden a basin in his reception
hall and filled it with liquid mercury with eight small doors made of ivory and ebony.
When the sun was at a specific position in the sky, he would delight and terrify his
guests by ordering a servant to toggle the doors in quick succession, making it look
as if the lightning was shooting across the darkened hall.
While for evening entertainment, he would gather his most esteemed and highly paid court
poets and stage slam poetry competitions where each man would create rhymes on the spot in
rebuttal to the other.
Have you ever seen Eminem's 8 Mile? Well, imagine a court of richly dressed Andalusian
courtiers going ooooh when their favorite poet laid down an earth-shattering diss on
the other bloke.
Honestly, there's not many places in the world from a thousand years ago that I think
damn that would be a fun place to live, but Andalusia during its golden age? Mwah, take
me there.
But it wasn't all rap battles and liquid lightning. By the time the 11th century was
rolling around, small-scale warfare was becoming more common between the taifa lords.
Through generations of easy living, these guys had become soft and decadent. If someone
needed a good poet or calligrapher, they had phone books full of different names, but a
good soldier? Well, that was harder to find.
So they turned north, to the grizzled Christian communities full of tough-mounted men who
had clung defiantly to their existence since the overthrow of their kingdom centuries ago.
Competition to employ these guys was fierce. Everyone wanted them, and, well, you know,
money talks.
A small company of soldiers could become rich from gold or land grants. A fiefdom here,
a castle here. It was peanuts to the rulers at first, but it began to add up.
With their newly found wealth, these backwater communities got a little bolder, and they
started raiding independently into the rich lowlands. And with this steady trickle of
wealth, Asturias and its little neighbors began to expand.
Around the 8th century, one of the Asturian kings wrote to their powerful northern neighbor,
the King of the Franks. This budding friendship led to recognition, which meant this tiny
kingdom was acknowledged as a sovereign state by a powerful European monarch. This was something
like the equivalent of the United Nations of today recognizing a new country.
A fantastical story about finding the bones of Saint James, that's James as in one of
the twelve apostles of Jesus, James, led to an even more fantastical battle where the
apostle appeared in the clouds and led a charge against the Moors in which the Christians
joined and won. The battle didn't happen and there was no
evidence at all that Jesus' apostle James ever set foot on Spain, but it didn't matter.
From this story, the Cathedral of Saint James in northwest Spain became a popular pilgrimage
route, which it still remains today now known as the Camino de Santiago, the Walk of Saint
James. And so with the foot traffic of pilgrims eager to rub the bones of old Saint James,
this little hermit kingdom of Asturias began to open up and expand more. And they did so
at the expense of the bickering Tifa kings, who now barely recognize themselves as part
of any unified state. Remember, this place is still technically a caliphate, it's meant
to be ruled by a single man. But just like poor old King Ruderick of the Visigoths, he
began to feel like his power was now largely ceremonial. His subject's attitude to his
authority was anywhere from apathetic appeasement to outright rebellion. And so it was into
this strange world of borders shifting like the sands and alliances doing the same that
a boy was born into a nondescript Christian village. His name was Rodrigo Diaz.
Rodrigo was probably born in the year 1043 AD in the village of Vivar, hence Rodrigo
Diaz de Vivar, Rodrigo Diaz of or from Vivar. To help orientate you, Vivar, now called Vivar
del Cid, is about 150 kilometers or 93 miles south of Spain's north coast, so fairly
far north. Rodrigo was not born into a poor family, despite what the legends say. We don't
know too much about his ancestry, but there's records of his grandfather witnessing a petty
king's charter. Likewise, his father seems to be involved in the legal system in some
way. Rodrigo was literate, but we're not sure
how literate. Sources state that he enjoyed Bible stories and, interestingly enough, epic
stories of Arab legends such as Ahmul-ul-Ahm, though perhaps this says more about the books
available than any particular preference of his.
Rodrigo's world was stark and rough. Justice was swift and uncomplicated, and death was
an everyday occurrence. His village was not too far away from the no man's land between
the Christian and Muslim kingdoms. Life so close to the border could be short, and every
man looked out for his own interests first. Hence, a boy needed to learn how to ride and
fight. Under the strict guidance of his father's servants, he would have learned how to ride
a mule, then a pony, and then finally a horse. Husbandry was essential, and he would have
spent many hours in the saddle learning how to calm the animal if it was nervous or how
to tame a new, unwieldy stallion. Once he had these basics down pat, he would have learned
how to care and treat as weapons, and through hawking and hiking he would have learned about
vantage points, slopes, and dead ground, all skills that he would later contribute to his
battlefield sixth sense.
At around fourteen years old he was knighted by the prince he served, a guy named Sancho
of Castile. Knighting was much less formal than it is today, and with these kingdoms'
limited resources there was probably a quick speech and a pat on the back, but it shows
that Rodrigo was in line with the expectations for a teen of his standing. Soon after that,
the young boy met his best friend. His wife? Nope. A lieutenant? Nope. It was, of course,
his horse, Bavieca.
In Spanish mythology, Bavieca is almost as famous as Rodrigo himself. There's two legends
about how man and horse first bonded. The first says that as a coming-of-age gift, Rodrigo's
grandfather let him pick any horse he wanted from his stable of fine Andalusian mares.
After passing pen after pen of proud, perfectly groomed stallions, at the end was a scrawny,
weak-looking grey pony. But Rodrigo felt kinship with the beast, and decided that this was
the one for him, to which his grandfather exclaimed, Bavieca, meaning stupid, as in
stupid choice.
The other story, which you might remember if you played Edge of Empires 2, that says
during a sparring session, Rodrigo was challenged to a duel, but did not own a horse.
You would face him from horseback, hm? A foot? I will not allow that. However, if he wishes,
I have a horse for Rodrigo in my stable.
King Sancho gave him the most prized stallion in his stables, a thoroughbred mare of royal
stock called Bavieca.
The horse, Bavieca, comes from the renowned royal stables of Seville.
However these two came to be, with his trusty steed underneath him, Rodrigo soon had his
first taste of real combat, supporting Sancho in the defense of a Muslim ally who had been
attacked by Sancho's uncle.
So to break that down, a Christian lord fighting another Christian lord in support of his Muslim
client? Yeah, this mishmash of alliances is something you'll get used to pretty quick,
and why the Reconquista is so often oversimplified.
Far from the popular narrative that paints Rodrigo as this point of the spear through
the heart of Islam, Rodrigo, and most others around him, cared little for the eternal struggle
of crescent versus cross.
The average grunt soldier wasn't dreaming of avenging King Rudrick and reclaiming Spain
for the glory of the Christian church. Their lens, which they saw the world through, was
set by local affairs, and the rulers, both Muslim and Christian, made alliances that
they believed would advance them, give them more power, more money, or more status.
Rodrigo's early adult years were a bit of a blur. There's accounts here and there
of him winning duels against Muslim opponents and capturing a few high-profile prisoners
who he ransomed back. Whatever he did though, he made a name for himself. And soon enough
he was promoted to head of the military by his patron, Prince Sancho, who had recently
become King Sancho. Rodrigo was a rising star.
His reputation was one of a no-nonsense field commander with an eye for detail leading to
his nickname Campiador, which is usually translated to battlefield doctor, but it's probably
meant something more like master of the battlefield.
When Sancho's father died, his land was split between three of his children, and
although Sancho inherited a smaller and less wealthy portion, a war predictably started
between the brothers. And with Rodrigo Diaz el Campiador leading his armies, it was King
Sancho who came out on top. One of Rodrigo's biographies says of his performance during
the war, quote,
In every battle King Sancho fought with King Alfonso, Rodrigo bore the king's royal standard
and distinguished himself among the soldiers and thus bettered himself thereby. End quote.
Rodrigo and Sancho, it seemed, were heading for great things, but barely nine months after
the conquest of his brother's lands, Sancho was dead.
His death was suspicious, and his brother Alfonso, who had been exiled after his defeat,
almost definitely had a hand in it. However it happened, King Alfonso quickly swooped
in before the dust had settled, taking control of all Sancho's territory. And just like
that, Rodrigo went from VIP lounge to general admission.
Alfonso couldn't and had no reason to straight up murder the Campiador, but he made sure
to keep him at arm's distance. Someone with such talent and such a close connection to
his brother that he'd probably just murdered, well, he'd need to keep an eye on him. And
as we'll soon see, Rodrigo, like the horses he trained in his youth, would not be easy
to command.
But first, a quick message from one of the friends of the show.
If you're a fan of movies that are true stories, I've got a new podcast recommendation for
you. It's called Based on a True Story, and it is the podcast that compares Hollywood
with history. You'll learn from historians, authors, TV and film consultants, and sometimes
even the real people the movies are based on as they separate fact from fiction in your
favorite movies. Hear how much of the gangster movie Donnie Brasco happened from the real
Donnie Brasco himself. Listen to the real history behind Downton Abbey from Lady Carnarvon.
Laugh along with the real guys that the comedy movie tag was based on. Get some extra stories
from the production set from the historical consultant on the movie The Alamo. Those are
just a few examples. So when you're ready to learn how much of your favorite movie really
happened, subscribe to Based on a True Story in your podcast app of choice or find it at
Based on a True Story podcast dot com. Once again, that's Based on a True Story podcast
dot com.
Before we go on, as Alfonso is one of our main characters, I want to try and help you
get a feel of the guy. Remember today as Alfonso the Brave, to me, determined seems more apt
title for the guy. Born as the second child of three, it's telling that he managed to
convince his father to parcel off the richest parts of his kingdom to him instead of Sancho,
the firstborn. But even that wasn't enough. Wanting his brothers shared too, he seems
to have challenged Sancho to trial and combat in full view of their troops. With Rodrigo
possibly watching from the stands, the duel ended in a clear victory for Sancho. But Alfonso
didn't care, and he refused to abide by the agreed result. Then after their father died,
Sancho, with the help of Rodrigo, defeated and exiled him. Once again, he didn't care.
That's two attempts at clemency now, and poor old Sancho wouldn't be around for the third.
Although there's no proof, the sneaky murder of his brother was widely suspected to be
the work of Alfonso. According to legend, Rodrigo, with tears in his eyes, forced Alfonso
to swear on the cross that he had nothing to do with Sancho's death, which he did. There's
a great painting of this scene, which I'll add to the show notes. With the fratricide
taken care of, Alfonso splashed out with titles and cash on those who helped him rise to the
top. Rodrigo had worked hard to ingratiate himself to his new lord. Despite Alfonso's
suspicion, he couldn't help but recognize that the man had a way of getting things done.
But another man who had been more lucky in penetrating the kings in a circle was a guy
called García Ordóñez. Ordóñez's career trajectory so far had been similar to Rodrigo's. It was
probably handy enough with a sword and from a decent well-off family. He too had been
a close confidant of the late King Sancho, though not as close as Rodrigo. After Sancho's
suspicious death, it looked like he figured out fast which way the wind was blowing and
put his bare foot forward with Alfonso. Nicknamed Crooked Mouth by biographers and probably
by Rodrigo himself, it's believed that Ordóñez either had a slight deformity on the side
of his face or that he just whispered many crooked stories that he had concocted into
the king's ear. Stories that always seemed to paint Rodrigo in a bad light. If you're
picturing Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings, you're on the right track.
However he managed it, Ordóñez rose to the top of the new king's court and soon he was
leading armies for him. Emboldened by the trust placed in him, Ordóñez’s deeds quickly threatened
to eclipse Rodrigo's. The campiador who, in the past, had courtiers hanging on his every
word was old news. People wanted to hear about García Ordóñez and his bravery slaying the
wicked moors. This simply would not do. After stomping out any little uprisings from
his late brother's supporters, Alfonso cracked his knuckles and prepared for his next challenges.
Just south of his lands lay a messy patchwork of little taifa kingdoms. Many were his vassals
already and they quickly found out that the new lord wanted his protection money paid
on time every time. So two groups of envoys were sent to pick up Alfonso's cash. Rodrigo
was sent to the ruler of Seville. García Ordóñez was sent to the ruler of Granada. When they
set off, what the two men probably didn't understand was that there was some animosity
between these taifas. Somehow the king of Granada managed to convince Ordóñez and his
knights to lead his army in an attack on Seville. The battle is really strange and historians
speculate something is fishy, but in the end Rodrigo agrees to lead the Granadan army in
defense of the kingdom. After all, this was what the protection money was being paid for,
right? So you've got two Christian knights and their armies are fighting against each
other in the service of two Muslim kings who are both vassals of one Christian king they
all serve. Yeah, welcome to 11th century Spain. If you think it sounds complicated, imagine
living in it. Anyway, Rodrigo wasn't called the master of the battlefield for nothing
and he managed to defeat the Granadans. Everything that had just transpired could have probably
been choked up to a bit of a miscommunication if it wasn't for what happened next. Once
the dust had cleared on the battlefield, the campeador realized that he had snagged himself
a number of high profile prisoners, including old crooked mouth Ordóñez himself. As they
were both knights of the same lord, a respectful thing to do would be to release him. But Rodrigo
didn't respect Ordóñez and he wanted him to know it. The bitter memory of being passed
over for praise and promotions rankled the campeador. So instead of releasing him, he
held him captive for days, stole all his belongings and weapons before finally cutting him loose
after a huge ransom payment. As the legend goes, to pour salt on the wound even more,
as the man was leaving, Rodrigo called him back and gave his beard a hearty tug, much
to the delight of his men, I would imagine. While this grievous humiliation trickled back
up to the king, Rodrigo's men were called to alert again by the king of Seville who
claimed now that the king of Toledo, another neighboring state, was invading his lands.
And geez, talk about unpopular, eh? So Rodrigo gathered his men and they made short work
of what turned out to be just a bunch of bandits, definitely not a state sponsored raid. But
he didn't stop there. Acting as if he was in fact responding to a full scale invasion,
he scorched the countryside and rounded up a mass of captives to be sent north. Historians
can only speculate at this gross overreaction, but one theory goes that Rodrigo's recently
married wife, Ximena, had inherited lands further north that were severely lacking in
manpower. So perhaps this was Rodrigo's way of securing a labor force to till the fields.
Either way, it was a decision he would quickly regret. When King Alfonso heard about this
over the top attack orchestrated by, well, a knight sent by him who was only meant to
be there to collect payment, he was said to be, quote, very gravely displeased, end quote.
I love this phrasing. It's like your employee has just murdered his way into a shop you
own and enslaved the people who work there. And the king's like, yes, that is the most
inconsiderate event to occur. Anyway, what's for dinner? I'm sure you're already seeing
a pattern here, but Rodrigo Diaz was happy to follow orders. But if there was a little
side quest along the way, something that might make him a few extra gold coins, well, I mean,
why not, hey? Even by this point in his life, he was proving that he was no one's man
except his own. The humiliation of his court rival, perhaps King Alfonso could understand,
Ordonez would get over it. But destroying farms and enslaving people who made him, the
king, money, well, that was too far. Perhaps listening to the sage words of his new advisor,
who happened to be Ordonez's brother, Rodrigo Diaz was sentenced to exile, banished from
the realm of Castile forever. Under pain of death, he could never show his face in any
of the lands ruled by King Alfonso or his vassals, his family, his property, and all
his titles gone. For all his battlefield prowess, it was his ambition that it led him astray
and it seemed like this was the end of the road for the campiador, relegated to a footnote
in the annals of history as one of King Alfonso's rebellious bannermen. As the sad, clip-clopping
of Babieka's hooves rang out against the empty streets of Castile, it must have seemed
like his short story was coming to an end. But Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar was not a man who
could be kept down. He had seen from the other side what men could accomplish through cunning
and the sweat of their brow. He was only just getting started.

The poem of El Cid, or El Cantar de Miucid, is one account of Rodrigo's life. Within
its faded pages is one of the earliest and, it must be said, most dramatic embellishments
of Rodrigo's journey, and it paints a vivid picture of the moment that the heroic Rodrigo
is forced to bear the humiliation of exile. Through an anonymous writer from the 11th
century we're told of this heart-rending scene, as the hero of Castile and of Christendom
rides his horse slowly through the deserted street. The slow, clip-clopping of Babieka's
hooves are the only sounds that can be heard. Eyes full of tears, he looks back on his city
and hears the wailing of the townsfolk who cry out, quote, what a good vassal, if only
he had a good lord, end quote. On the outskirts of the lonely streetscape, he says goodbye
to his two daughters and his wife, who he leaves in the care of a friendly priest. The
author describes Rodrigo's heartache as so, quote, weeping bitterly they parted, with
such pain as when the fingernail is torn from the flesh, end quote. And then the lone hero
of Castile, with a few of his most loyal companions, departs into the great unknown.
It's a great story and in front of a roaring herd with a few glasses of strong Spanish
wine you can really envision a travelling minstrel lighting up the taverns with tales
like this. But in reality, who knows. Rodrigo's wife and his kids may have been left at a
monastery but that's about as far as the story carries. Rodrigo and his merry men instead
search around neighbouring kingdoms looking for employment, rapping on the doors of the
many petty kingdoms until they finally arrive at the household of the Taifa of Zaragoza.
Zaragoza was governed by an incredibly learned man named Al-Muttaman. A mathematician by
heart he's credited with the discovery of Kevers Theorem, an equation concerning triangles
within geometry. Though he was the first to discover this theory, it would go virtually
unnoticed until it was rediscovered almost 600 years later. I'll put a link to this
theory in our show notes if you want to give it a look. Not exactly the most riveting stuff
but the point is Al-Muttaman needed someone to handle his military while he calculated
triangles. So when a group of scruffy looking Christians arrived on his doorstep, you could
say it was a match made in heaven. Al-Muttaman grew to trust Rodrigo very quickly and Rodrigo,
who was now flush with cash from his scholarly lord, was only too happy to keep bringing
the victories. Having no trouble forgetting any old allegiances, he fought anyone and
everyone that threatened Zaragoza, including a man he knew from King Alfonso's court.
This man's name was Count Beringa who, if you played the Age of Empires 2 game once
again as a kid, would remember him as the bad guy from the El Cid campaign. Time and
time again Rodrigo is victorious against the enemies of Al-Muttaman and the victories bring
prestige to the Taifa of Zaragoza. Rodrigo was an out of the box military thinker for
sure. Making use of all the minds in the room, he would give the briefing of a situation
that they were in and then probe his commanders for their ideas. Once everyone had given their
input, they would discuss them one by one, taking the best bits from each idea and combining
them into a cohesive plan which all military commanders felt they contributed to, something
similar to what we would maybe today call brainstorming. He was also keen to try and
get in the heads of his enemies. If his men came down the hill from this angle at this
time, how would it make the defending soldier feel? When would they be mentally the most
Count Beringa, who, like Ordóñez , worked King Alfonso to keep him at odds with Rodrigo,
was the first to feel the force of the campiodor. In a very similar capture to Ordóñez a few
years back, the count fell to him in battle. A few weeks later he trudged back to the king's
court, his pockets much lighter, but hey, at least didn't get his beard pulled, right?
Through these victories he enriched not just himself but his men. Followers who had stuck
with him through exile were rewarded in tow. Muslims, Christians, he didn't really care.
A good soldier was hard to find, a good commander more so. What care did he have who they worshipped
in their own private time?
With his prestige rising high again, he became known within the Muslim realms as Sayyid,
a term meaning Lord in Arabic. Originally it was used for Muslims who could trace their
bloodline back to Muhammad, but in the case of Rodrigo it was honorific. Though the Islamic
sources never mention this, our best guess is that his Moorish soldiers referred to him
with this title, Sayyid, which caught on with his Christian soldiers, which there it was
corrupted into Sid, which leaves us with…
El Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Campiador. The Lord Rodrigo Diaz of the village of Vivar,
master of the battlefield. Quite a title.
Some historians believe that this title came later and there is debate about whether Rodrigo
was ever referred to as El Cid during his lifetime, unlike his other nickname Campiador,
which we know from his own signature was a title he used at least once. And just like
that, a Spanish legend was born.
And on that note, sadly, is where I leave you today. But fear not, the story of El Cid
is only just getting started and we'll be back in two weeks as the man becomes the legend.
This is the Anthology of Heroes podcast. As always, I'm your host Elliot Gates. Thanks
for listening and take care.