Battles of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar "el Cid"

Rodrigo serving the king of Castile

Battle of Graus (1063).
At this battle, the Moslem king of Zaragoza, Al-Muktadir, defeated the king of Aragon, Ramiro I, who died at the battle (actually, some sources affirm a murderer was sent to kill him during the battle). The King of Castile, Fernando, sent his son Sancho (future Sancho II "the strong") to help his protected Al-Muktadir. Rodrigo Díaz had probably 20 years old at that time, and took part as member of Sancho's troop.
Llantada (19th July 1068) and Golpejera (1072). Sancho II of Castile defeats his brother, Alfonso VI of Leon. Rodrigo commanded the Castilian army in both battles.
Antecedents. Castile and Leon were united under king Fernando I "the Great" (1029-1065). Nevertheless, the Leonese noblemen didn't want to be under the governement of a Castilian king (Castile had been a frontier county of León, until very recently), so he decided to divide his kingdoms. At his dead, the first son (Sancho) heired the kingdom of Castile, While the second one (Alfonso) heired León. Theoretically, that was the logic decission, following the Navarrese Sucession Law (Fernando was son of Sancho the Elder of Navarre): the first son received the fatherly inheritance, and the posessions acquired by himself were reparted between the other sons & daughters. But León, as heir of the ancient Hispanic-Gothic kingdom could claim for its supremacy over the other Iberian countries, so Sancho thought he should have heired it, and looked for the confrontation with his brothers.
Llantada is the result of a challenge between both kings who served mainly to increase Rodrigo's prestige (it is in this time, when he started to be called "El Campeador") ... and to make him win some ennemies in the Leonese Court, and even in the Castilian one (as a member of the Low Nobility, he was seen as a parvenu by the High noblemen). The battle of Golpejera is more controversial: depending on the sources (Castilian or Leonese) the battle is different. The fact is that Alfonso is captured by his brother Sancho, who is crowned as king of León, while Alfonso is exiled at the court of the Moslem king of Toledo, Al-Mamún. Nevertheless, Sancho was murdered after a while (by Vellido Dolfos), when he tried to conquer his sister Urraca's posession of Zamora (under the governement of his sister Urraca). Alfonso returned then to claim both kingdoms of Castile and León. The Castilian noblemen, leaded by Rodrigo Díaz, compeled Alfonso to swear he wasn't involved with the murder of his brother, before accept him, but it seems, after his oath, Rodrigo was one of the main supporters of Alfonso.
Rodrigo served the new king, during some years: sent as ambassador to Seville to collect the annual tax, he was involved in a conflict between Seville & Granada, fighintg against this last one in the battle of Cabra (1079): the king Abd Allah of Granada was helped by the Castilian García Ordóñez, so Rodrigo won a new ennemy in the Castilian Court. Rodrigo started then to lose the Royal favour. After leading a punishment expedition against Toledo (which was under the protection of Alfonso) he is finally exiled, and entered in the service of the son of Al-Muktadir, Abú Amin (who reined very soon, under the name of Al-Mutamin billah, "the one who trust in God").

Rodrigo serving the king of Zaragoza

Al-Mutamin had to front several threats, first, his brother Al-Mundir (king of Lérida, Denia & Tortosa) claimed Zaragoza, at the same time, the king of Aragon & Navarra, Sancho Ramírez, the twin Counts of Barcelone, Ramón Berenguer & Berenguer Ramón, and the king of Valencia, Abú Bakr tried to expand their possesions taking the ones of Al-Mutamin, so it seems Rodrigo couldn't rest too much. We can see that, at this time there was a certain tolerance between Christian and Moslems, only broken by foreign interventions (North-African invaders or French crusaders): the alliances between Christians and Moslems were not strange.
First, he went to release the city of Calatayud, besieged by the king Abu Bakr of Valencia, captures the castle of Alcocer and wait almost four months until he provokes Abu Bakr into an attack which ended with the latter's defeat (1081).
Later, he had to help the city of Almenar (1082), who was besieged by Aragonese & Catalans: in a surprising attack, he released the city, and captured by the first time, the count of Barcelona, Berenguer Ramón. He received as a ransom, the sword of Berenguer, the famous Tizona.
Finally, he build a castle in Olocau, to threat Al-Mundir, this one claim for the help of the king of Aragón, but both of them were defeated by Rodrigo, on 14-8-1084.

Rodrigo as an independent power

In the meanwhile, there had been a reconciliation between Rodrigo & Alfonso VI. Rodrigo still served Al-Mutamin until his death, but a short time later, he returned to Castile (1085), where his help was needed against the new North-African invaders: the Almoravids. Rodrigo was, then, sent by Alfonso to Valencia, where he served his king by a while. Nevertheless, he was again exiled in a short time. Now he started to act as an independent power, looking for his own state in Eastern Spain.
Tébar (May 1090). The first threat against Rodrigo's plans was, again, the count of Barcelona, Berenguer Ramón II, who, in the meanwhile, had murdered his brother. Berenguer, now as single Count, had his own ambitions in the same area, and prepared a hugh army to defeat Rodrigo. El Cid refugeed in the forest of Tébar, near Teruel, and managed to divide Catalan army, who was humiliatingly defeated. A short time later, there was a reconciliation between Rodrigo & Berenguer, this last one renouncing his ambitions in the area.
After a short time serving Alfonso, Rodrigo returned to Eastern Spain where the king Al-Qádir of Valencia had been deposed by a rebellion. The new sovereign, Ibn Yahhaf, had claimed for Almoravid help. Rodrigo Díaz sieged the city and took it on (15-6-1094), after almost 2 years of siege, creating his own mixed (Moslem-Christian) state. He started to be known as "El Cid" (an Arab word meaning "the lord" or "the boss"). Nevertheless, he had immediatly to start his defence works against the Almoravid threath.
Alcaraz (1096). Rodrigo looked for an alliance with the new king of Aragon, Pedro I, and helped him in the battle of Alcaraz, where they defeated Al-Mustain, and conquered the city of Huesca. Castilian counts García Ordóñez (the old enemy of Rodrigo) and Gonzalo Núñez fought as mercenaries of the king of Zaragoza, in exchange, Pedro I will help Rodrigo in the following battles against the Almoravids (see the battle of Bairén).

Rodrigo against Almoravids

Almoravid empire stretched from Ghana (in the African gulf of Guinea) to Spain. A major figure in the empire's history is Yusuf ibn Tashfin, who conquered Morocco and founded the city of Marrakesh in 1062. In fact, there were really two Almoravid empires; one founded by Abu Bakr in the Sahara and Sahel, and the other by Yusuf in the north. Alarmed by the conquests of Alfonso VI, and the new politics of religious intolerance, coming with French monks, the kings of Seville (Al-Mutamid) and Badajoz (Al-Mutawakkil) asked for help to Yusuf: he entered to Spain and defeated the Castilian-Leonese armies at the battle of Sagrajas/Zalaca (23th october 1086). Almoravids introduced a new warfare way in Spain, with a more developped organization, and the use of battle drums to transmit orders during the battles. Nevertheless, the opposition of Moslem countries of Spain (who started to consider him more dangerous than Alfonso) and the dead of his son (that made him to return to Africa) prevented him to take profit of his victory. Later, the Almoravids returned to Spain, starting the conquest of the Moslem kingdoms, before attacking Christian ones. A Castilian army, leaded by Alvar Fáñez, went to help the Moslem states, but was defeated at Almodóvar del Río (1091). Later, they tried to recover the cities of Toledo and Valencia, the nephew of Yusuf, Muhammad, being sent to the second one.
Cuarte (14-10-1094), also known as Poblet. A hugh Almoravid army, attacked the state of Valencia. The army of Rodrigo (much more tiny than the Almoravid one) goes out from the city and defeat Muhammad, who didn't hope Rodrigo to attack the first: that was the first time that Almoravids (considered until this moment as invincible) were defeated.
Bairén (1097). 1097 was almost a disastrous year for Christians. The almoravids (Muhammad ben AlHach) attack again ChristianSpain, and defeat in Consuegra. (August 15th) the Castilian-Leonese armies of Alfonso VI, dying in the battle the son of El Cid, Diego Rodríguez. A few days later, a new Castilian army, under Alvar Fáñez is also defeated between Cuenca & Zorita. Almoravids seemed unstopable, and decided to attack again Valencia, but this confidence is going to be their perdition: Rodrigo Díaz and his ally, Pedro I of Aragón attack the first in Bairén, and find them again unprepared (they tought El Cid was going to wait for them inside the walls of Valencia).
Consequences. Those battles only managed partially to stop the Almoravids: they still defeated Christians again at Uclés (1108, where the heir of Castile, Sancho, also died), and conquered the cities of Consuegra, Cuenca, Ocaña and Hueste. After the death of Rodrigo Díaz (10th July 1099), they attacked again Valencia, besieging the city at least three times. Alfonso VI came to help the city, but only managed to end the battle in Cullera in a draw, so the city had to be abandoned by Christians. Nevertheless, they had spent their best moment, and Toledo remained under Christian hands. The Almoravid domination over Moslem Spain remained until 1145 (only the kingdom of Zaragoza remained independent for a while), but the main threat towards Christian Spain had ended. Almoravid domination was a period of artistical renaisance, but also of religious intolerance: Jews were expelled towards the Christian Kingdoms, and many Mozarabs (Christians who lived at Moslem countries) had to follow them.
See too The Almoravid invasion.
More information at:
El Cid campeador. (Spanish)
El Cid en Aragón. (Spanish)
EL CID at the Catholic Encyclopedia.
The Song of El Cid.
The Lay of The Cid.
Some thoughts on The Song of the Cid.
The chronicle of the Cid.
Poema del Mío Cid (Spanish).
Cantar del Mío Cid. (Spanish).
Return Battles of Castila & Leon Page.