The figure of Rodrigo Díaz (c. 1043-1099 CE), popularly known as El Cid (derived from the Arabic word sayyid) and/or Campeador (Champion/Master of the Battlefield, cf. Latin 'Campidoctus'), continues to attract considerable debate in Spain and elsewhere as to his status in Spanish history. In brief, for some, he is a Spanish national hero and/or champion of Christendom against Islam, but for others who are more critical of him, he is a mere mercenary and opportunist. These views all depend on how one interprets the historical evidence regarding El Cid's life, among which the Historia Roderici ("History of Roderic")- an anonymous Latin work probably dating to the twelfth century CE and portraying its subject in a favourable light- should be indispensable in any assessment of El Cid. It is in my view the most important source for his life, and I present a freely accessible translation of it as part of this post.
I should mention that I have had some interest in the figure of El Cid since I was a child, having first come across his story in the video game Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, which features the El Cid story as a campaign series of scenarios, beginning with his service to King Sancho II of Castile (ruled 1065-1072 CE) and culminating with his capture of the Muslim petty state (ta'ifa) of Valencia in 1094 CE and its aftermath. The story portrayed involves fictional elements and anachronisms (e.g. featuring gunpowder combat units that did not even exist then), but it made for entertaining gameplay.
The most recent notable advocate of the view of El Cid as some sort of hero against Islam is Raymond Ibrahim in his book "Defenders of the West: The Christian Heroes Who Stood Against Islam," where El Cid features as one of Raymond's eight heroes. By way of preface, I should note that I like Raymond personally, and have high regard for his Arabic language skills and ability to read Arabic source materials (both modern and medieval) in the original- quite a contrast with the many hucksters in the realm of 'terrorism studies' and 'jihadism studies' who purport to be 'experts' on jihadist groups in a general sense or in the Middle East and North Africa but have no research competency in Arabic, yet occupy academic and research fellow positions.
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