Name at birth: Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar
A central figure in the struggle between Christianity and Islam in medieval Spain, El Cid (from the Arabic as-sid, meaning "the lord") was an 11th century warrior whose military exploits made him a folk hero of mythical proportions. Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (sometimes de Bivar) served as the commander of the troops of Sancho II, ruler of Castile, beginning in 1065. Called El Cid by the Moors and El Campeador ("the champion") by his countrymen, Rodrigo became famous for his military prowess in several battles against Sancho's brother, Alfonso VI, ruler of Léon. Sancho died in 1072 without an heir, and Rodrigo's allegiance was transferred to the court of Alfonso. Rodrigo was a popular leader and hero in Castile, but not so popular at court in Léon. Alfonso became convinced that Rodrigo was plotting against him and exiled him in 1081. Rodrigo found work fighting for the Muslim leaders al-Muqtadir (or al-Mu'tamin) and al-Musta'in II, bolstering his military record and reputation as a leader. When King Alfonso was threatened by an invasion of the Islamic Almoravid dynasty in 1086, he talked El Cid into fighting for him again. Over the next several years El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso. After a 20-month siege, El Cid conquered Valencia and became the de facto ruler, making it officially a Christian city. After his death, he was immortalized in plays, folk tales and songs, and continues to be one of the most revered men in Spanish history.