The Legend Of El Campeador

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain.

He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho’s ascension in 1065. Rodrigo went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho’s brothers, Alfonso VI of León and García II of Galicia, as well as in the Muslim kingdoms in Al-Andalus. He became renowned for his military prowess in these campaigns, which helped expand Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims and Sancho’s brothers’ kingdoms. When conspirators murdered Sancho in 1072, Rodrigo found himself in a tight spot. Since Sancho was childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, the same whom El Cid had helped remove from power. Although Rodrigo continued to serve the Castilian sovereign, he lost his ranking in the new court which treated him at arm’s length and suspiciously. Finally, in 1081, he was ordered into exile.

El Cid found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he defended from their traditional enemies, Aragon and Barcelona. While in exile, he regained his reputation as a strategist and formidable military leader. He repeatedly turned out victorious in battle against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, an expeditionary army of North African Almoravids inflicted a severe defeat to Castile, compelling Alfonso to overcome the resentments he harbored against El Cid. The terms for the return to the Christian service must have been attractive enough since Rodrigo soon found himself fighting for his former Lord. Over the next several years, however, El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. When the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of al-Qadir, El Cid responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094, and El Cid established an independent principality on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. He ruled over a pluralistic society with the popular support of Christians and Muslims alike.

El Cid’s final years were spent fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted upon them their first major defeat in 1094, on the plains of Caurte, outside Valencia, and continued resisting them until his death. Although Rodrigo remained undefeated in Valencia, his only son, and heir, Diego Rodríguez died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid’s death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she was eventually forced to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102.

Hmm… not the El Cid, Champion of Christian Spain, you were expecting? Well, early post Roman Empire politics is complicated and includes the fact that the Spanish Catholics were in fact the very same Goths who sacked Rome in 410, and their Moorish oppressors Vandals who had pushed them out of what is now Poland and into Roman servitude around 225 C.E. more or less (oh, they also sacked Rome in 455, disappointed at being second they did it harder).

Both the Goths and the Vandals adopted Arianist Christianity (about which I’d explain more but it’s not really relevant) and were valued mercenaries of the Roman Empire.

In 400 or so the Huns (who may have had Vandal allies) moved into Central Europe displacing both Vandals (by Huns) and Goths (by Vandals) deep into Italy, Gaul (France), Galicia (Spain), and North Africa (which was much more fertile than it currently is). The Goths, favored by the Western Empire, ended up with most of Gaul and Galicia as well as (eventually) Italy. The Vandals, favored by the Eastern Empire, ended up with North Africa, parts of the Balkans, outposts in Southern and Northern Galacia, and Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.

And then the Western Roman Empire collapsed. Isn’t Game of Thrones fun?

About 650 a new religion, Mormonism Islam, started sweeping in. It soon eroded most of the Eastern Roman Empire and in a wave of expansion incorporated the bulk of Central Asia, India, and parts of Africa, including Northern. Hey, when the King goes Lutheran Church in America all you Missouri Synod types better catch up, and Vandal territory was no exception. Early adopters were Berbers, fierce warriors who’d been pesky antagonists of the Vandals (and the Romans before them) for centuries and they and the Vandals soon allied in a policy of expansion in Spain. Gaul had basically been taken over by the Franks (French, duh) so the Goths were isolated in parts of Galacia and Italy (which hated and resented them). And in that situation cut throat mercenary Rodrigo Díaz rode on the stage.

But what I want to talk about is the metaphor.

In the movie valiant Christian warrior El Cid emerges as a defender of Castile and Western Civilization itself. His skill as a soldier and commander leads his troops to victory after victory and demoralizes his enemies even though they end up decimating his army and mortally wounding him. His corpse has a stick shoved up its ass and is strapped to his horse which is sent out the gates to terrify his opponents. The Muslims flee and El Cid is victorious one last time.


And so Republicans are sending their dead man walking back on the floor. They’re only doing it because they think it ensures a tactical victory.

I’m sorry John.

You might have deserved better but this is all you’ve got. You die a slave to “Crazy Base Land”.

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