El Cid was also known as Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, Ruy Díaz de Vivar (also spelled
Bivar), and El Campeador ("the Champion"). His title of "the Cid" comes from a
Spanish dialect of Arabic, sidi, meaning "sir" or "lord," and was a title he acquired
during his lifetime.
El Cid was noted for being the national hero of Spain. El Cid displayed remarkable
military ability in his conquest of Valencia, and after his death he became the subject of
many legends, stories, and poems, including the 12th-century epic El cantar de mío Cid
("The Song of the Cid").
Born into minor nobility, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was raised in a royal household and
was appointed the standard-bearer and commander of troops by Sancho II. Fighting for
Sancho against Sancho's brother, Alfonso, would prove awkward to Díaz when Sancho
died childless and Alfonso became king. Though he lost some prestige, he married
Alfonso's niece, Jimena; and, despite his presence serving as a magnet for Alfonso's
opponents, Díaz served loyally for several years. Then, after leading an unauthorized
raid into Toledo, Díaz was exiled.
Diaz then fought for the Muslim rulers of Saragossa for almost 10 years, scoring
significant victories against Christian troops. When Alfonso was defeated by the
Almoravids in 1086, he recalled Diaz from exile, though the Cid did not stay in the
kingdom for long. He embarked on a long campaign to take over Valencia, which he
successfully captured in 1094 and ruled in Alfonso's name until he died. After his death,
literature and poetry lionizing the Cid would obscure the facts of Díaz's life.