El Cid Conquers Valencia Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

El Cid conquered Valencia and became its ruler, making use of excellent military strategies and tactics to defeat Muslims from northern Africa who invaded Spain in the eleventh century.

Summary of Event

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, best known as El Cid, is both a historical and a literary figure. Since his death in 1099, this hero’s life has been celebrated in several works, particularly the epic poem El Cantar de mío Cid (c. 1140; The Poem of the Cid, 1879), Poem of the Cid, The also known as Poema de mío Cid. History and legend have become so entangled that scholars still struggle to determine the exact events of his life. [kw]El Cid Conquers Valencia (November 1, 1092-June 15, 1094) [kw]Cid Conquers Valencia, El (November 1, 1092-June 15, 1094) Cid, El Valencia, conquest of Spain;Nov. 1, 1092-June 15, 1094: El Cid Conquers Valencia[1700] Government and politics;Nov. 1, 1092-June 15, 1094: El Cid Conquers Valencia[1700] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Nov. 1, 1092-June 15, 1094: El Cid Conquers Valencia[1700] Cid, El Ferdinand I (1016-1065) Alfonso VI Díaz, Jimena Sancho II Urraca Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn

In 711, thousands of Islamic Berbers Berbers from northern Africa crossed into Spain at Gibraltar, and Islam remained in Spain Spain;Muslims and for nearly eight hundred years. Partially because the Christian kingdoms were divided among themselves, there was little resistance to this invasion. In 718, the leader Pelayo was the first to stop these Muslim troops as they attempted to cross the Iberian Peninsula and invade the rest of Europe. Over the next several hundred years, until 1492 when the last Moorish leaders left Spain, Christians and Moors battled what was known as the Reconquest of Spain.

The Reconquista Reconquista was not a period of continual warfare. Córdoba, Seville, and Granada became powerful political and cultural centers in the southern part of the peninsula under Muslim rule. Evidence of the glories of this culture can still be seen in the architecture that remains in these cities: The Great Mosque at Córdoba, the Alcázar in Seville, and the famous Alhambra in Granada. Boundaries between the Christian north and Muslim south were not fixed, and one group or the other often initiated warfare in an attempt to control territory, while at other times there was relative harmony.

During the Reconquista, El Cid emerged as a Christian military leader and later became a legendary hero. Born in Vivar, near Burgos around 1043, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar became known more widely as El Cid, a nickname derived from the Arabic sayyid, meaning lord or sir.

At the age of seventeen, El Cid was knighted by Sancho II Sancho II and later appointed commander of the royal army. Following the death of the king Ferdinand I Ferdinand I , father of Sancho, a civil war erupted between Alfonso and his sister Urraca Urraca against their brother Sancho. When Sancho was murdered, Alfonso VI Alfonso VI (king of León and Castile) became king of Castile. For a time, El Cid seemed to have royal favor under this new king. In 1074, Alfonso arranged a marriage between El Cid and his niece, Jimena Díaz, Jimena Díaz of the House of Aragón. His status with Alfonso, however, quickly changed. In 1081, El Cid led a successful raid into the territory of Toledo without the king’s approval. El Cid’s enemies convinced Alfonso that the leader had taken the action for personal gain. After his wife and children were placed in a monastery for safety, El Cid was exiled from Castile and León. He took with him a small army of trained warriors and served as a mercenary for both Christian and Muslim kings. During this period, El Cid demonstrated his military genius through a series of successful campaigns.

During the time when El Cid was in exile in the eastern part of Spain, events in the southern part of the country were occupying Alfonso. He had taken the Moorish city of Toledo and extended his reign farther into Moorish territory. He controlled nearly all of Christian and Muslim Spain. Seeing the threat they were under, Muslim rulers eventually sought additional help from the Almoravid Almoravids Empire in northern Africa.

In June of 1086, Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn Yūsuf ibn Tāshufīn crossed into Spain and was met by Muslim leaders of Seville, Granada, and Málaga. Alfonso VI ceased his attempt to gain control of Zaragoza and marched south with his troops to meet Yūsuf. The two met at Sagrajas, and Alfonso was humiliated in defeat. The military tactics of these North Africans were unlike those of the Spaniards; they were more compact and unified compared with the Spanish one-on-one style combat. Finally, Yūsuf returned to Africa and Alfonso called El Cid out of exile.

Alfonso gave El Cid free reign in large parts of eastern al-Andalus—Muslim-occupied Spain—and even promised El Cid and his heirs all the land that he freed from the Moors. El Cid gained control of several independent kingdoms and demanded tribute from them. He even succeeded in forcing Valencia to pay tribute owed to Alfonso.

In 1089, Yūsuf once again crossed into Spain, and Alfonso demanded that El Cid join him in fighting against the Almoravids. Because of internal struggles between Yūsuf and other Muslim leaders, however, Yūsuf and his army had retreated before Alfonso reached Aledo. It is not clear exactly what occurred, but El Cid failed to meet up with Alfonso. Enraged, the king once again banished El Cid from his kingdom, confiscated his property, and imprisoned El Cid’s wife and children, although the family was reunited later.

Exiled for a second time, El Cid again began to demand tribute from several of the independent kingdoms in the east and southeast of al-Andalus. He even persuaded al-Qadir, former ruler of Toledo, then ruler of Valencia to again pay tribute to ensure protection. El Cid remained a nuisance to both Yūsuf and to Alfonso, but became acceptable to many of the Moors. He practiced an authority that permitted tolerance rather than influence by power. Nevertheless, many Muslims resented the taxes imposed on them by Christian rulers.

When Yūsuf began his third campaign into Spain, many Muslim rulers decided they were safer without Yūsuf as an ally. They were prepared to ally themselves with Alfonso instead. This time, however, Yūsuf managed to reclaim several cities and Alfonso lost his control of al-Andalus. Only El Cid remained to exert pressure within the Moorish territory.

At the request of Alfonso’s wife, Queen Constanza, El Cid joined the king near Granada. The reconciliation, however, was short lived. The Almoravids did not attack as anticipated, and eventually the royal troops were ordered back to Toledo. In a misunderstanding over protocol, El Cid pitched his tents close to the walls of the city. Alfonso was only too ready to misinterpret El Cid’s actions, and El Cid fled and returned safely to Valencia where both Muslim and Christian leaders sought his support against the Almoravids of northern Africa.

During this period, Alfonso was unable to regain control of the south, and Yūsuf reconquered several cities and kingdoms. While El Cid was in Zaragoza, Valencia’s ruler al-Qadir was forced to flee the city, and the populace planned to turn the city over to the Almoravids. On his return in the fall of 1092, El Cid began a siege of the city that took nearly nineteen months to complete. When the new ruler refused to honor the previous accord, El Cid cut off food supplies. News of another Almoravid invasion encouraged those in control of Valencia to hold out until the North African troops could arrive. The famine and death caused by the lack of supplies, combined with further news that the Almoravids had eventually returned to Africa, forced Valencia to negotiate a settlement. On June 15, 1094, El Cid took control of Valencia as its unofficial king.

Yūsuf, now aged and perhaps ill, sent his nephew to reconquer Valencia and bring back El Cid alive; his nephew was unsuccessful and Yūsuf never returned to Spain. In the fall of 1094, at the Battle of Cuarte, Cuarte, Battle of (1094) El Cid again defeated the Almoravids.

El Cid held the city of Valencia for another five years until he died suddenly on July 10, 1099. His widow, Jimena, held Valencia for only a few years before she was forced to withdraw from the city, and Valencia once again fell to Muslim rule in 1102.


El Cid managed to persist against repeated attacks against the people of Spain, embodying heroism and living a life of legend. The epic Poem of the Cid reflects his legendary life, one filled with strength and determination but also brutality and cruelty. El Cid’s leadership in conquering Valencia and defeating the Muslims represents simply his final act recognizing that Spain deserved national unity.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barton, Simon, and Richard Fletcher, trans. The World of El Cid: Chronicles of the Spanish Reconquest. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Translations—with annotations—of four historical works by El Cid’s contemporaries, documenting the Reconquest. Includes a bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fletcher, Richard. The Quest for El Cid. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Provides a synthesis of research and refutes some earlier assumptions.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fregosi, Paul. Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the Seventh to the Twenty-first Centuries. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998. A history of Muslim conquests, including the “occupation” of Valencia during El Cid’s time. Includes the chapter, “Mio Cid: Valencia, 1080-1108.” Also includes a bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fuentes, Carlos. “The Reconquest of Spain.” In The Buried Mirror: Reflection on Spain and the New World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. A widely accessible work that discusses El Cid within the context of the Spanish Reconquista and describes its significance on the conquest of the Americas several hundred years later.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Madden, Thomas F., ed. The Crusades: The Essential Readings. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2002. An exploration of the Crusades, including the chapter, “Reconquest and Crusade in Spain, c. 1050-1150.” Also provides a bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Matthews, John. El Cid: Champion of Spain. New York: Sterling Publishing, 1988. This publication provides an easy and concise introduction to El Cid and to Spain of the eleventh century. Includes maps, drawings, and photographs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Menendez Pidal, Ramón. The Cid and His Spain. Translated by Harold Sunderland. Reprint. London: J. Murray, 1971. A well-known scholar provides classic scholarship about El Cid.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">O’Callaghan, Joseph F. Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. The author argues that the Papacy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries regarded the conflict in Spain between Muslims and Christians, which continued after El Cid’s death, to be a Crusade, and they afforded the same benefits to Crusaders in Spain as to those in the Holy Land. Includes chapters on battles, financing the conflicts, and Crusade warfare in general.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Read, Jan. The Moors in Spain and Portugal. Totowa, N.J: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975. Told from the Moorish point of view, this history makes use of many Arabic sources and includes a fine chapter on El Cid.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Colin. Introduction and notes in Poema de mío Cid. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1972. Contains perhaps the definitive edition of the epic poem as well as an exhaustive introduction, a bibliography, and historical footnotes.

Categories: History