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El Cid
1094 - 1238

El Cid Campeador and the story of ValenciaAt the end of the turbulent 11th century, when the newly independent Balansiya had to dispute conflicts with its new Muslim neighboors, the city was taken by the notorius El Cid in 1094, five years before the first fall of Jerusalem. The siege was brutal and his rule was heavy. The suffering population was relieved in 1102, three years after his death by a Almoravid invasion. The Almoravid army were called upon from North Africa to help hault the Castillian Re-Conquista. Once the Almoravids besieged Balansiya, the Christian garrison saw that they had no chance, burned the city and left.

Hollywood portrays El Cid as an idealistic hero-liberator of the Re-Conquista. It wasn't quite like that, though...

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar was nicknamed El Cid Campeador for his impressive one-on-one fighting skills (El Cid = sir, lord in Andalusi Arabic and Campeador = one-on-one champion fighter in Spanish). This respectful nickname in both Arabic and Spanish reflects his twisted loyalties.

He started as a vassal of Castilian king and went quite far up the ladder. But he had an "abrasive personality" and fell out of favour. He continued as a mercenary general for both Muslim and Christian kingdoms until he decided to carve out a piece for himself, in addition hyped up on the buzz of the Crusades. He first defeated Ramon Berenguer II of Barcelona, then married his daughter to Ramon's son to cover his back, and then exploited an uprising in Balansiya to lay siege. The siege lasted 18 months, it was a brutal ordeal with much starvation horror within the walls, until the city finally fell in May 1094. Officially El Cid ruled under the Castilian crown. In reality, he had his own ephemeral Crusader kingdom.

El Cid Campeador and the story of ValenciaTo some extent he integrated the Moorish population into the administration and the military. On the other hand, he expelled many Moors beyond the city walls and exploited them as slaves. All of the mosques were converted into churches and the Moors had no access to the centre of the city. It was a dark time of oppression for the Moors of Balansiya.

El Cid did not ride out his corpse into the battle. He died quietly in his home 3 years before the Muslims counter-attacked. For those three years the confused city ruled by his wife was steadily losing the plot until the Almoravid "liberation army" sweeped through Spain and appeared at the city walls. Cid's wife fled with his body and the garrison followed, after burning the city.

Far from being a romantic ballade of a hero Defender of Christ, Cid's story did, however, survive the centuries at a high volume. An interpretation of such fame lies, perhaps, in the magnitute of Cid's rise through the ranks. Born at the bottom of the noble ladder, Cid ended up virtually the king of one of the most powerful kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula of those times, making his way as a mere soldier with a sword. His story was a fairytale of a medieval American Dream. And while he didn't do any miracles politically or culturally, he was most certainly an inspiring portrait of a warrior knight.

Balansiya remained Muslim for over a century more. The times were not as great as before, though, with conflicts and economic problems. An agressive Christian kingdom of Castilla was gaining ground, approaching Balansiya. The Christian Re-Conquista was going full speed. With heavy hearts and fears for the future, the Moors heavily fortified the walls of Balansiya, preparing to meet the agressor...

El Cid Campeador and the story of Valencia El Cid Campeador and the story of Valencia El Cid Campeador and the story of Valencia

Map: Location of Muslim Valencia


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