In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section El Cid

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • El Cid as a Historical Character
  • El Cid as a Literary Character

Medieval Studies El Cid
Alberto Montaner, Pablo Justel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0254


The Castilian warlord Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, who lived in the second half of the 11th century, is better known as El Cid, a title of honor adapted from Andalusian Arabic sídi, a contracted form of Classical Arabic sayyidi, “my Lord.” He started his career at the service of the kings Sancho II and Alfonso VI of Castile and León. Nevertheless, when Alfonso banished him in 1081, he became a general under the Emir of the Taifa of Saragossa, whom he defended against the Emir of Lleida, the King of Aragon, and the Count of Barcelona. Probably just after the defeat of King Alfonso by the Almoravids (1086), El Cid returned to the Castilian court, but he was soon delegated to supervise the king’s interests in the Iberian East. During 1087–1088, El Cid tried to convert it in a protectorate under the aegis of Alfonso VI. Nevertheless, a new conflict arose between the king and his vassal, who was banished again in 1088. From this point onward, El Cid proceeded with his former agenda, but now to his own benefit. However, the final Almoravid invasion in 1090 made the previous politics unfeasible, and El Cid began to conquer the region until he occupied Valencia in 1094. He then defeated the Almoravid army charged with recovering the city that same year, in the battle of Quart. After several other conquests and a new victory over the Almoravids at Bairén (south of Valencia) in 1097, he died of natural causes in 1099. His widow, Jimena Díaz, resisted at first against the Almoravids, but finally the Christians had to leave Valencia in 1102. The remains of El Cid were then buried in the Benedictine abbey of San Pedro de Cardeña (near Burgos). His fame gave rise to legends and literary works from an early date, so that he must be addressed both as El Cid as a Historical Character and El Cid as a Literary Character, even if, to some extent, the historical works are not easily distinguishable from literary ones (see the Cidian Corpus). The work that consecrated El Cid as a literary myth is the Poema de mio Cid, placed at the top of the historical canon of Spanish literature. The charisma of its hero has made the legend of El Cid one of the most important epic cycles of the Middle Ages, and one of the great myths of universal literature.

General Overviews

The duality of El Cid in history and literature makes it difficult to find general overviews that deal with both sides, since the general approaches to him are usually centered on El Cid as a Historical Character or on El Cid as a Literary Character. One of the first overviews covering both issues was Horrent 1973, which questioned several claims made in Menéndez Pidal 1969 (cited under the Cidian Corpus), which were usually accepted by the scholarship at that time. Although Horrent offered his own account of El Cid’s life, his work focuses more on the heuristic of the Cidian sources, while the literary side is restricted to 12th-century works on El Cid. In contrast, Peña Pérez 2009 deals in detail with the biography of El Cid and then adds a survey of his conversion in a literary character. The entries in the dictionaries of medieval or general characters usually are more centered on the literary issue (see De Vries 1998), but Ladero Quesada and Briesemeister 1983, and Martin and Niderst 2003 are twofold and cover both sides of El Cid.

  • De Vries, H. “Cid.” In A Dictionary of Medieval Heroes: Characters in Medieval Narrative Traditions and Their Afterlife in Literature, Theatre and the Visual Arts. Edited by Willem P. Gerritsen and Anthony G. van Melle, 80–84. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 1998.

    De Vries offers a general survey of the literary evolution of El Cid and his spread all over the world, from his beginnings in the Middle Ages up to the 20th century.

  • Horrent, Jules. Historia y poesía en torno al “Cantar del Cid.” Barcelona: Ariel, 1973.

    Horrent traces the path that leads from El Cid of history to that of literary myth. He offers an overview of the role of El Cid in the historical environment of the 11th century, followed by the gesturing of the Cidian legend in the following century.

  • Ladero Quesada, M. A., and Dietrich Briesemeister. “Cid, El.” In Lexikon des Mittelalters. Vol. 2, 2078–2282. Zürich and Munich: Artemis, 1983.

    The first section, “Leben und historische Persönlichkeit” (Life and historical personality), by Ladero Quesada (cols. 2078–2080), deals with the historical Cid and his role in his own time. The second section, on “Literarische Darstellung” (Literary representation), by Briesemeister (cols. 2080–2082), deals with the evolution of El Cid as a literary character during the Middle Ages.

  • Martin, Georges, and Alain Niderst. “Cid.” In Dictionnaire des mythes littéraires. Edited by Pierre Brunel, 324–337. Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 2003.

    A short biography of El Cid (pp. 324–325) followed by a review of the Cidian corpus, quite detailed until the 17th century and very simplified from then until the 20th century. This last part is just centered on French literature.

  • Peña Pérez, F. Javier. Mio Cid el del Cantar: Un héroe medieval a escala humana. Madrid: Sílex, 2009.

    Peña Pérez offers a detailed biography of El Cid, followed by an analysis of the factors that helped to convert him into a literary, cultural, and, lately, national myth. This book is a reworking of his previous one, El Cid Campeador: Historia, leyenda y mito (Burgos, Spain: Dossoles, 2000).

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