Political and Economic Aims of Medieval Institutions

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2053

As an epic, compared with other examples from the genre, the Cantar de mio Cid stands out not so much in its form as in its content as a literary reflection of history. A text that probably underwent many transformations as oral literature before it was written down by a talented poet, the Cantar de mio Cid shares the epic epithets, stock themes, and formulas typical of other early epics. As the tale of a heroic individual whose existence is well documented, the Cantar offers a unique example in the epic genre of the relationship between literature and history. The link between the Cid as a man, the legend that quickly evolved about his deeds even during his lifetime, and the use of this story as a political tool during the turbulent twelfth-century in Spain, during which time the descendants of the Cid won the throne of Castile, lends itself to a fascinating reconsideration of the way literature is used to change history.

Since the Cantar de mio Cid does recount the tale of a famous historical figure who is also well-documented, one of the most important questions to ask about the epic surrounds the cultural and historical impetus behind its composition. Why, in 1207, was the epic first written down? Why was it again recopied 100 years later? With regards to the events that are recounted in the epic itself, one can ask why certain fictional elements were added to the historical narrative, as well as why certain historical elements were retained while others were omitted. Two interesting phenomena illustrate the way this epic was used to promote the political and economic interests of certain medieval institutions many years after the Cid died. One example of the way that the poem was used to promote the political interests of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his allies in the late thirteenth century demonstrates the propagandistic element of epic literature. A second example of the exploitation of the epic illustrates its "commercial" use: the development of a tomb-cult, a sort of tourist site at the Abbey of Cardeña, where the Cid was buried.

The hypothesis that the Cantar de mio Cid was written as a praise-poem for the king of Castile's (Alfonso VIII) ancestor and the king's allies, the Lara family, who were related to the Cid by marriage, has been discussed above (see the "History" section above) and is best summarized by J. Duggan, who follows María Lacarra in much of his argument. Duggan explains that the question of family integrity and illegitimacy, which dominates the narrative even over the conquest of Valencia—a monumental historical event—is related to the twelfth-century political struggle between Castile and Leon. It is important to remember that the historical Ximena, the Cid's wife, was of royal blood, cousin to Alfonso VI of Castile. In the epic, however, no mention is made of this, and the poet concentrates on the insults that are hurled at the Cid by the Infantes de Carrión, who maintain that the Cid is a member of the lower class: "Who ever heard of the Cid, that fellow from Vivar? Let him be off to the river Ubierna to dress his millstones and collect his miller's tolls as usual. Who gave him the right to marry into the Carrión family?" (11. 3377-81) The Infantes insist that the Cid's daughters are not wives, but concubines, suggesting that they are illegitimate, or are born of an illegitimate parent. Duggan shows that the poet's insistence on "clearing the Cid's name'' relates to a crisis that centered on the marriages of Alfonso IX of Leon and Alfonso VIII of Castile.

A common practice in the Middle Ages was to marry a member of an opposing family to restore peace between two warring clans; the historical Ximena was married to the Cid in a peacemaking gesture on the part of Alfonso VI. At the height of the tension between Alfonso IX and Alfonso VIII, after the disastrous battle of Toledo in 1195, the pope stepped in to try to restore peace between the Christian kings so as to better combat the Muslim presence. He excommunicated Alfonso IX of Leon and his counselor Pedro Fernández de Castro (the man considered a traitor by the Lara clan). Excommunication was a terrible punishment in this period; the victim was essentially ejected from the Christian community. Faced with this threat, in 1199 Alfonso IX agreed to marry Alfonso VIII's daughter, Berenguela, to make peace. This match, however, although it brought peace, was problematic in that Alfonso IX and Berenguela were first cousins, and thus the marriage was considered incestuous. The new pope who entered the scene at that moment, Innocent III, was particularly stubborn on the matter of incestuous marriages, and insisted that it be annulled, imposing the interdict on Leon and Castile, another terrible punishment in which no sacred services could be performed.

Alfonso IX and Berenguela refused to separate, and Berenguela eventually bore five children. These children were judged illegitimate by the pope, but Alfonso IX ignored this, naming his son, Fernando, heir to the Leonese throne. After a period of intense crisis, Fernando, the son of a daughter of Castile and the king of Leon, finally was given legitimacy by the pope in 1218, and the tension between Castile and Leon was finally ended, as it had been planned by Alfonso VIII, when Fernando became Fernando III, king of Castile and Leon. A crisis that threatened regional stability when popes and kings clashed is reflected and resolved in a work of fiction, in which the Cid is represented as illegitimate, but manages to earn, through his intrinsic worth, the approbation of his peers and, more importantly, the approval of God. It is important to note that the Cid's champions, in the final three duels, fight for the Cid and his family's honor and win, not because of their skill in fighting, but because God wills it. The clash of church and state, illustrated by the series of interdictions imposed on Spanish regions by various popes in the late twelfth century to force them to change their dynastic politics, is resolved in the epic when God remains consistently on the Cid's side throughout his struggle with the Moors and with those who would insult his family. A political and moral message is thus sent by this text, which works to uphold the prestige of a ruler who is tainted by the hint of illegitimacy.

The link between the Church and the Cid's descendants becomes clear when one takes into account the importance of churches and monasteries for royal families in the Middle Ages. In exchange for political and spiritual support in the form of sermons preached and masses said for the benefit of a powerful family, these families often donated great sums of money for the maintenance of the resident monks. Two institutions figure importantly in the history of this epic; the first is San Pedro de Cardeñ a, and the second is, according to Duggan, Santa María de Huerta. The former was powerful during the reign of Alfonso VI (the king who interacted with the Cid) and the latter was a newer institution, established by Alfonso VIII, who himself placed the keystone of the building in the ground. Huerta was also patronized, or given financial support, by the Lara family, allies of Alfonso VIII. Alfonso visited Huerta several times, and Duggan suggests that one of these occasions may have been commemorated by the composition of the 1207 manuscript of the Cantar de mio Cid. The mysterious "Per Abbad" who "wrote down" the text may refer to the Abbot Pedro I, who was Abbot at Huerta around 1203 through 1210. He might have presented it to Alfonso VIII on one of his visits in 1207.

Although the thirteenth-century copy of the text, which is now lost, may have been composed at the Abbey of Huerta, the fourteenth-century copy of this manuscript was discovered in the sixteenth century in the archives of the city hall of Vivar, the Cid's home town. Later it was borrowed by an eighteenth-century scholar and subsequently was passed around Spain for two hundred years. The history of Cardeña differs from that of Huerta in that it was a Benedictine institution, rather than a monastery such as Huerta, built on a newer, reformed model. It consequently enjoyed less royal favor than Huerta in this period, since Alfonso VIII favored the reformed model. Even a slight lessening of royal favor had serious financial ramifications for any given religious institution, and the monks of Cardeña took action. P. E. Russell states that "Cardeña enjoyed the favour of Alfonso VIII (1158-1214), though, in common with the other Benedictine foundations, it was now no longer closely connected with the life of the court. The monks began to elaborate, with small regard for historical probability, legends designed to keep alive memories of the part they had once played in the early days of the Castilian nation." ("San Pedro de Cardeña and the Heroic History of the Cid," Medium Aevum, Vol. 27, no. 2,1958, p. 68)

One method that these monks used to maintain the prestige of their Abbey was the production of manuscripts, which served as valuable tools in the process of generating support for an element that the Abbey wanted to promote. In the case of Cardeña, it was a well-known fact that the Cid had been buried there after his wife Ximena brought his embalmed remains to the Abbey in 1102. The monks of Cardeña worked to aggrandize the Abbey's link with the Cid: stories circulated that not only the Cid was buried there, but also his wife Ximena and his famous horse, Babieca. The Cid's body, like that of a saint, was reported to be "incorrupted," or in perfectly preserved condition. In the Cantor de mio Cid itself, many unlikely details were either added or retained from the earlier version to emphasize Cardeña's helpful role in the Cid's campaigns. Ximena and her daughters, for example, were housed at the Abbey in defiance of the king's orders, according to the text. The Cid is depicted as donating vast sums of money to the Abbey in his lifetime. Even the general region in which the Abbey was situated is glorified by the invention of Martín Antolínez, the "worthy citizen of Burgos," who likewise defies the king and joins the Cid in exile.

These stones can be seen as a carefully orchestrated "advertising campaign" that resulted in attracting tourists who brought much-needed revenue to a religious institution that enjoyed less royal favor than their newer counterparts. A tomb-cult quickly developed at Cardeña: people flocked there to view the tomb of the Cid, elevating his legend to the status of a saint by retelling the tales of his heroic deeds. This phenomenon is not an isolated one: Russell notes that "The gradual turning of a lay (e.g. not religious) figure into a hagiographical (e.g. saintly) one as a result of a tomb-cult was clearly a general phenomenon." ("San Pedro de Cardeña and the Heroic History of the Cid,'' Medium Aevum, Vol. 27, no. 2, 1958, p. 67). The steady stream of pilgrims to visit the tomb of a popular hero or a saint generated considerable wealth for the church or monastery that housed the relics, or remains, of a popular hero. These pilgrims also ensured the survival and elaboration of these heroic legends, in that they learned the story of the hero during their pilgnmage and returned home to retell it. Perhaps the manuscript was produced as yet another piece of written—and thus more plausible—proof that the relics were indeed worthy of popular veneration

The Cantor de mio Cid offers a unique demonstration of how literature about a historical figure can reflect and even influence local politics and, later, generate revenue for a medieval tourist site. Heroic stories continue to be used to draw parallels between the present and the past. The 1961 Hollywood movie El Cid could be interpreted as a reflection of the American public's veneration of their own heroic leader, John F. Kennedy, who, with his wife, shed glory on an empire of their own. Thus an epic can be generated for the most self-serving of reasons.

Source: Jennifer Looper, for Epics for Students, Gale Research, 1997.

The Moor in the Text: Metaphor, Emblem, and Silence

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1951

The image of the Moor in Spanish literature reveals a paradox at the heart of Christian and Castilian hegemony in the period between the conquest of Nasrid Granada in 1492 and the expulsion of the Moriscos by Philip III in 1609. Depictions fall between two extremes. On the "villifying" side, Moors are hateful dogs, miserly, treacherous, lazy and overreaching. On the "idealizing" side, the men are noble, loyal, heroic, courtly—they even mirror the virtues that Christian knights aspire to—while the women are endowed with singular beauty and discretion.

Anti-Muslim diatribes are fairly common and predictable: they are flat and repetitive in their assertion of Old Christian superiority over every aspect of the lives of Muslims or crypto-Muslims. Any sign of cultural otherness is ridiculed; the conquering caste, insecure about its own lofty (and, more often than not, chimerical) standards of limpieza de sangre ("purity of blood"), laughs away whatever trace of old Hispano-Arab splendor might remain in the Morisco. Or, conversely, the uneasy master recasts wretched Moriscos as ominous brethren of the Ottoman Turk.

The truly vexed problem, however, consists in determining the meaning of idealized Moors in historiography, ballads, drama, and the novel. Roughly speaking, modern criticism divides into two camps in attempting to explain this curious phenomenon of literary infatuation with a cultural and religious minority subjected to growing popular hostility, Inquisitional hounding, and economic exploitation. I will call one camp "aestheticist" and the other "social."

In the "aestheticist" view, what counts above all else is the expansiveness of the Spanish soul, which is so generous to its enemies of eight centuries' standing that it buries the hatchet and fashions them into models of the courtly and chivalric. No Christian knight is more adept at arms than Abindarráez; no lady is ever lovelier than Jarifa, Daraja, or Ana Félix.

The "social" interpretations render literary phenomena as pamphlets for "peaceful coexistence." They argue, often persuasively, that chivalric or sentimental narrative in Orientalist garb hides a subversive message available only to the cognoscenti—New Christians, crypto-Muslims, and crypto-Jews—in need of consoling or intent on dismantling the dominant culture. This literary fashion may well have been encouraged by aristocratic patrons wary of sacrificing faithful and hard-working vassals to the Church-inspired zealotry of Charles V's heirs. Some of the strongest dissenting voices belonged to Aragonese seigneurial patrons, whose fondness for Maurophilie littéraire may have come from a political conservatism rooted in profitable mudéjar traditions. Aragonese lords of Morisco vassals may thus have nurtured the proliferation of Moorish "positive role models." Some scholars argue that seigneurial protectors of Morisco traditions might have sought to lift the sagging image of their New Christian subjects by conjuring up aristocratic Moors of yore. Still, the Morisco was as much of an outsider in sixteenth-century Spain as he would have been in the golden Nasrid Granada romanticized in literature.

Turning from the "social" aperçus on the possible origins of the sixteenth-century Moorish novel to the earliest vernacular instances of the discourse on the Moor, we find one of the most uncanny expressions in premodern literature of the power of representations. In the Poema de mio Cid, composed some time around 1207, the exiled hero's return to the fold takes the form of an ever widening but essentially redundant displacement of the Moor. And, as in the sixteenth century, the Moor in the Poema de mio Cid falls between extremes of the dehumanizing and the fanciful: either he is reduced, metonymically, to an item of value in the booty lists carefully drawn by the hero's quiñoneros ("officers in charge of counting and distributing booty"), or he is the reassuring and Orientalized projection of the hero's sway over reconquered lands. Grounded in conquest and reiterated tests of valor on the battlefield, the discourse of the conqueror also displays a twofold drift: on the one hand, writing is an instrument of surveillance, the means of recording all the wealth taken from Moors and then allotted to the Cid's fighters; on the other hand, the conqueror produces a poetic language belonging to the class of propagandists gestures and calls to arms (pregones) which is essential to the seizure and, later, to the defense of Valencia.

The Cid is a soldier turned poet when he describes an army of Moors as a pageant of Moorish service that proclaims the Cid's presence—and not the Moors'—in a reconquered landscape. This metaphoric transformation of a Moorish menace into a hyperbolic statement of Moorish devotion to the conqueror takes place in Valencia, at the tower of the alcazar, where the proud conqueror has taken his wife and daughters to contemplate their vast estates. But into their vision of wealth and familial pleasures now intrude King Yúçef s North African hordes, encamped around the city they hope to seize for Mafomat ("Muhammad"). The threat is a Moorish version of the Christian Reconquest, and it is therefore all the more horrifying to the women after their uncertain years in the monastery at Cardeña, outside Burgos, away from the Cid. Model father and husband that he is, the Cid soothes the women by translating his proven force of arms into a reassuring metaphor of Moorish service:

Su mugier e sus fijas subiolas al alcaçar, alçavan los ojos, tiendas vieron fincadas: "?Ques esto, Çid !Si el Criador vos salve!'' "!Yamugier ondrada non ayades pesar! Riqueza es que nos acreçe maravillosa e grand, 'a poco que viniestes presend vos quieren dar, por casar son vuestras fijas: aduzen vos axuvar!"

(He led his wife and daughters up into the castle; they raised their eyes and saw the tents pitched. "What is this, Cid, in the name of the Creator'" "My honored wife, let it not trouble you! This is great and marvelous wealth to be added unto us; you have barely arrived here and they send you gifts, they bring the marriage portion for the wedding of your daughters'')

Confident of his military and political savvy, the warrior as poet turns an image of Moorish force into a projection of his own overwhelming presence. Moorish weapons, tents, and horses exist in the poem only to be detached from armies whose defeat is episodic and invariable. In the Cid's proleptic metaphor, "Riqueza es que nos acreçe maravillosa e grand," the tension between the ominous beating of Moorish battle drums and the hope of making worthy marriages for his daughters in the court of Alfonso VI of Castile and León is swiftly resolved in the ensuing battle, which bears out what the poem's implied audience has come to expect of its hero.

The Cid's metaphor makes two rhetorical thrusts. One is the proleptic shorthand that captures the development of the plot it describes. The second is the metonymic reduction of the Moor, whose presence ("riqueza es ("this is ... wealth")") in the conqueror's universe of discourse is illusory, relegated to the spoils that quiñoneros can describe in their lists. But the heuristic fiction, which the metaphor gives rise to, dresses epic force in Orientalized garb. Once the Moor is defeated in battle, the role of the Moor in discourse is to enhance the prestige of the hero and his world. Not for nothing does the adjectival form morisco undergo a semantic shift in the work. First, it describes a coveted cloak which one of the duped Jewish moneylenders requests:

Rachel a mio Çid la manol ba besar: "!Ya Campeador en buen ora çinxiestes espada! De Castiella vos ides pora las yentes estrañas; assi es vuestra ventura, grandes son vuestras ganançias, una piel vermeja morisca e ondrada Çid, beso vuestra mano en don que la yo aya." (my emphasis)

(Raquel has kissed the hand of My Cid: "Ah, Campeador, in good hour you girded on sword! You go from Castile forth among strangers. Such is your fortune and great are your gains; I kiss your hand, begging you to bring me a skin of crimson leather, Moorish and highly prized.") (my emphasis)

Later, as the hero sweeps over Muslim lands, the adjective morisco aptly describes the manner in which the Cid puts his own stamp on booty and people: beaten mows point to moriscos, and both are the undifferentiated names for the Islamic defenders which the Poema de mio Cid marks for defeat.

Esta albergada los de mio Çid luego la an robada de escudos e de armas e de otros averes largos; de los moriscos quando son legados ffallaron .dx. cavallos.(my emphasis)

(My Cid's men have looted from this camp, shields and arms and many other things; they counted sixty horses in the booty taken from Moriscos.) (My translation, my emphasis)

Thus, the idealized Moor and the items listed by quiñoneros —congener to the romanticized Moor— presuppose one another in the conqueror's metaphoric language. The Cid's exemplary Moorish vassal Avengalvón, probably the first of a long line of idealized Moors in Spanish literary history, also displays elements of this complex interplay between the logic of the poet and that of the quiñonero.

To imagine the besieging Almoravides at the walls as an already beaten yet prestigious foe is a powerful device, but it becomes more vividly so when seen in the wider context of the Western epic tradition. The exchange of words between the Cid and his wife, Ximena, as they watch the armies below is a discrete reworking of the classical teichoskopia—the view from/on the wall. This topos, as in the Iliad, marks a shift in point of view, emphasis, and theme. In the Poema de mio Cid the broadening effect of the classical teichoskopiais masterfully turned into an Orientalizing trope. As viewed from the walls, the besieging warriors— shouting heretical war cries of "Mafomat!" and beating thousands of battle drums— are turned, simultaneously, into chattel and romanticized subjects not to be feared but counted and possessed. In the guise of a poet, the hero produces a powerfully self-centered caption to the fearsome sight below. The teichoskopia thus furnishes the privileged vantage point from which the hero enacts his sway over Muslim adversaries. High above the enemy, within sight of vast land-holdings and wealth, the hero now empowers his discourse with the ability to redefine, at will, bristling motifs of Moorish force and to imbue them with "Cidian" meaning and a reassuring sense of harmony and continuity.

This total dominion over the Moor—the linking, through teichoskopia, of metaphor and sword, the Moor as chattel and as romantic Other—is a key moment, both in shaping the Spanish Orientalist tradition and in fostering the ideological solidarity characteristic of the epic. All those who participate in the social mobility and expansiveness of the vigorous frontier world of Castile and its hero feed on the beaten Moors: the townspeople of Burgos, the fighting bishop don Jerome, the Cid's intrepid followers, and even Avengalvón, the Cid's ever loyal Moorish vassal. Catalans, Leonese, members of the old aristocracy, duped Jewish moneylenders, and Moorish enemy all constitute an opposition handily negated by the Cid and his band, exiles whose ostensible return to the fold actually initiates a new society and an ethos nurtured by "object values" taken from their antagonists and reinscribed in their own—the conqueror's—universe of discourse. The univocity thus achieved also manifests in the continuity of language and world: mobility over vast stretches of frontier territory coincides with the frequent pregones ("recruiting propaganda"), booty lists are homologous to epic catalogs of warriors; and narrative equivalence of wealth and authority, the forceful and the sacred, displays the scope of epic consolidation.

Source: Israel Burshatin,"The Moor in the Text: Metaphor, Emblem, and Silence," in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 1, Autumn, 1985, pp. 98-118.

Legitimation and the Hero's Exemplary Function in the Cantar de mio Cid and the Chanson de Roland

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The Chanson de Roland and the Cantar de mio Cid are often compared, but usually for the wrong reasons. The Spanish poem has a documentary quality about it, and the single poetic version which has survived the Middle Ages, in a manuscript identified as the product of one Per Abbat, a scribe, was composed within a hundred and eight years of the hero's death. The Cid is thus much closer in narrative type to, say, Garin le Loherain or to the Canso d'Antiocha than it is to the Roland, which in its earliest extant form is at least three hundred years removed from the historical events it reflects and which is marked by notable geographical and temporal distortions. What justifies considering these two poems together is that they both incorporate myths looking back to a foundation, the Cid for the Spanish kingdom born of the union of Leon and Castile, and the Roland for the Carolingian Empire.

The relationship between literature and history underlies notions of the epic to a greater extent than it does conceptions of other genres. During the last hundred and fifty years certain models of that relationship have been dominant. For the Romantic critics, the people spoke by and large as if with one voice, and the role of individual poet-craftsmen who gave form to that voice was usually passed over. More than any other type of poetry, the epic embodied the people's sentiments, preserving the memory of heroes to whose model it had looked in the past for leadership in life and an exemplary way to die. Because of constant rivalry between modern France and Germany, two powers which were at least theoretically united in Charlemagne's empire, the question of whether the French populace was more closely linked to a Germanic or to a Roman ancestry preoccupied scholars who were concerned with the origins of the French epic. Even those who were cognizant of the Franco-Prussian War's distorting effects on French intellectual life may register surprise at the formulation found in the second edition of Léon Gautier's Les Epopées frangaises: the French epic is surely of Germanic origin, Gautier tells us, because its leading female characters are utterly without shame and their actions must thus be based on Germanic models of womanhood. The myth of origins itself—and here I use "myth" in the pejorative and popular sense of a belief which is not backed up by verifiable facts—is a historical concept conditioned by political and intellectual categories which are now outmoded. It is no secret that questions formerly asked about origins are now more often framed in terms of manifestation or development.

But all too often the issues posed by the giants of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century scholarship—Gautier, Gaston Paris, Joseph Bédier, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, and others—are still being discussed in the same terminology which they bequeathed to us. In particular the perception of history as a sequence of striking events brought about by the potentates of this earth has survived largely intact in the work of many literary scholars concerned with the relationship between epic and history in western Romania. In the framework of their interpretations, great personages manipulate the epic to support their own drive for hegemony. Bédier's idea that the French epics were first created in the eleventh century through a collaboration between clerics and poets seeking to promote the fame of certain shrines situated along the great pilgrimage routes derives from a related view of history in that it posits that the motivation and working habits of medieval poets did not differ from those of later and better documented authors: witness Bédier's pronouncement that a masterpiece begins and ends with its author, his comparison of the Roland with Racine's Iphigénie, and his citation of La Bruyere's statement that making a book is no less a feat of craftsmanship than making a clock. But eleventh-and twelfth-century poets could not have worked in the same ways as those of the seventeenth, because the processes of poetic creation are a function of social, economic, and intellectual circumstances which vary from period to period and from one type of society to another. The manner in which a poet creates is conditioned above all by what French historians of the Annales school call mentalités, perceptual categories which shape the way in which phenomena are viewed. Substantial though they be, differences in educational background and in political and social milieu are less important than diversity in mental framework, a basic and all-pervasive variance that prevents us from reconstructing adequately the world view of medieval poets.

In studies on the Cid, a similar reliance on the concept of history as a sequence of noteworthy occurrences prevailed. While Menéndez Pidal appreciated the import of political events and the effects of Muslim pressure on the kingdoms of northern Spain, he gave less attention in La España del Cid to social and economic forces; although he took great pains to establish the geography of the epic Cid's progress from Burgos to Valencia, he seldom referred to medieval conceptions of time and space which contribute to the skewing of geographical reality. Pidal's achievements in filling in the backdrop against which the historical Cid acted are undeniable, and even his detractors make use of the data he collected. His discussion of the Chanson de Roland's manuscripts is a masterful treatment of how medieval texts recorded from oral tradition differ radically from what we in the twentieth century normally mean when we speak of a text, and as such it contributes in a major way precisely to that history of mentalities which is so regretfully lacking in the España del Cid. In reading the Cantar de mio Cid with greater attention to its social aspects and to the relationship between political and economic history, I believe one can approach with greater hope of success a realization of the poem's significance.

Dealings between men as they are represented in the Cid cannot all be subsumed under the terms "vasselage" or "feudalism." Social relationships are marked by an economic give and take which mirrors a particular state of society best qualified as a "gift economy" in which exchanges of money and goods take place continually, but not under the conditions which one normally calls "economic" in the modern sense. The historian Georges Duby has drawn upon ideas developed by the socio-anthropologist Marcel Mauss to sketch out a description of exchanges in the early and high Middle Ages which can illuminate the meaning of gift-giving and other processes of the eleventh- and twelfth-century economy as they are reflected in the Cantar de mio Cid. Conquests and the payment of various types of feudal dues and rents supplied political leaders and fighting men of that period with an abundance of wealth beyond what was needed for their sustenance. The economic workings of society required that such wealth be circulated to others, with the result that generosity in its distribution was not merely an option open to the powerful, but an uncodified obligation. Recipients of seignorial largess were not all of a lower rank then benefactors: gifts from inferior to superior were also immensely important. At the top of the social pyramid the king was forced to have at his disposal sources of wealth which he could dole out to those who came to test his liberality, and while conquest and plunder provided much of this wealth, so did the offerings of lesser men. The relationships whose existence was fueled by these gifts were of a mutually beneficial nature. Gift-giving was probably never considered to be disinterested. Between military men and their followers, of course, service was commonly exchanged for largess; tributes guaranteed against attacks; even stipends and legacies made in favor of the Church brought a return, in the form of divine favor. The economic system sustained by this movement of commodities and coin in many cases had no relation to mercantile trade, but nevertheless effected a flow of goods which maintained the poor, supported significant numbers of able-bodied if occasionally idle monks, provided motivation for the warrior class, and acted in general as a cementing element in the social edifice.

While the gift economy dominated in the early Middle Ages, its main traits were still present in the period 1050 to 1207, that is during the Cid's career and the time in which the poem in all probability took shape in something close to the form in which we have it. More than one observer has called the Cid a bourgeois hero, the poem a bourgeois epic. Such a formulation could only be based upon the conviction that obsession with wealth is a monopoly of the city-dwelling, mercantile class; as Duby has shown, this is manifestly untrue for the eleventh and twelfth centuries. No hero in all of epic literature is as concerned with money and possessions of various kinds as is the Cid, but his insistence on the prerogatives of nobility is unmistakable. Even the most cursory recital of the poem's themes confirms that economic interests dominate the Cantar de mio Cid to an extent unmatched in the Romance epic, and yet the outcome of the social process set in motion by the hero's acquisition of wealth is attainment of the very highest level of the aristocracy.

In tracing the motivations for actions in the Cid, one is forced to consult the prose version found in the Cronica de Veinte Reyes, since the poetic text as found in Per Abbat's manuscript lacks a beginning. The chronicle tells us that King Alfonso of Leon and Castile believed the accusations of evil counsellors to the effect that his vassal Rodrigo Díaz of Vivar was withholding from him tribute that was supposed to have been delivered subsequent to a mission to Seville and Cordova. While he was in Seville, Rodrigo had defended Alfonso's tributary against an attack from Cordova, and had earned by his prowess and magnanimity the honorific "Cid Campeador." Whatever the historical Alfonso's motive for exiling the Cid, the poet responsible for the Per Abbat text assumes that popular opinion lent credence to the accusation that the hero had profited at his lord's expense. After receiving six hundred marks from the Jewish money-lenders Rachel and Vidas in exchange for two chests which supposedly contain money but are actually full of sand, the Cid is financed and ready to face his exile which he will begin with a series of raids.

That an epic poem should devote any attention at all to how a military campaign is funded is extraordinary, let alone that negotiations should occupy a major scene. Why is the poem anomalous in this respect? In placing the Cid in the context of medieval Romance epic, one must refer primarily to the one hundred or so French works which are extant, a preponderance of evidence against which the three fragmentary Spanish poems and the half-dozen Provençal titles represent comparatively little. Allowance should be made, first of all, for differing social conditions. Undoubtedly the landed estate, the classic base for feudalism of the French variety, played a lesser role in Spain than it did north of the Pyrenees. In addition, whatever benefit might accrue from possession of a territorial foothold was denied to the Cid in his exile. A more important factor is also at work, deriving both from the particular circumstances of peninsular history and from the epic's role as a genre which holds up models for emulation. In the expanding world of northern Spanish Christendom, in which land was available for capture by force from the Arabs and in which one of the chief political problems was how to motivate fighting men to leave familiar surroundings so as to take advantage of the military inadequacies of weak and fragmented Muslim principalities, the Cantar de mio Cid furnishes the exemplary model of a noble of relatively low rank rising to the highest level of the social hierarchy without having at his disposal the power base of the landed estate. The poem is both an entertaining tale of military prowess and an economic and social incentive for ambitious Castilian knights of low rank and narrow means.

The acquisition of booty, its proper distribution among the knights and soldiers, the appraisal of precious objects, and the use to which wealth is put join together to form one of the poem's major thematic complexes. The poetic Cid achieves his reintegration into the social fabric directly through economic power, and succeeds in proportion to his personal enrichment, beginning with the unhistorical raid on Castejón. Time and again, the type and quantity of booty are enumerated: coined money, shields, tents, clothing, slaves, camels, horses, beasts of burden, and other livestock. At times the amounts are stated to be beyond reckoning, but this type of comment is only a figure of speech since the poet also depicts the tallying up of loot by the quiñoneros, officials whose job it was to divide and count the spoils. Repeatedly and as early as the first major engagement the fighting men are termed ricos. As lord, the Cid receives a fifth of all plunder.

The relative worth of objects is of less interest than what their possession connotes in social terms. In the Cid, wealth and fame are closely linked, from the hero's first proclamation inviting others to join him in his exile, which frankly appeals to the desire for rritad, through the marriage of his daughters Elvira and Sol with the heirs of the house of Carrión, to the climax at the court scene in Toledo where the Cid is dressed in his most luxurious finery. Throughout the poem he displays his wealth by bestowing gifts on those who surround him, although he is never seen receiving them. The outstanding examples of interested gift-giving are the three embassies which carry extravagant offerings to King Alfonso. In return the Cid receives first the lifting of the king's official displeasure, then that his wife and daughters be allowed to join him in Valencia, and finally full pardon and, without his having requested it, his daughters' marriage to the heirs of Carrión.

The link between wealth and honor is nowhere more apparent than in the hero's dealings with the heirs. The villainous motives of this pair are epitomized when they accept booty from the victory over King Búcar in spite of having acted in a cowardly fashion on the battlefield. The five thousand marks that come to them on this occasion lead them to the mistaken belief that they are now rich enough to aspire to marriage with the daughters of kings and emperors. Whereas for the Cid courage brings material benefits in the form of possessions which can then be exchanged for the prerogatives of birth and can even, in a sense which I will discuss shortly, compensate for the inadequacies associated with doubtful lineage, for the heirs of Carrión high birth conveys an intrinsic value which makes it unnecessary for them to put themselves to the test of battle. As they leave Valencia supposedly to escort their wives to Carrión, the Cid gives them more wealth in the form of a bride-gift: three thousand marks and the precious swords Colada and Tizón. That this contrast is essential rather than coincidental is seen in the aftermath of the incident at Corpes in which the brothers beat the Cid's daughters and leave them for dead. Surprisingly for the modern reader, the hero places loss of the wealth he has distributed to the heirs of Carrión on the same level as his daughters' dishonor: "Mios averes se me an levado que sobejanos son, / esso me puede pesar con la otra desonor." This preoccupation with worldly goods as a symbol of intrinsic worth continues during the court scene at Toledo. The Cid makes three legal points against the heirs of Carrión, of which the first two concern possessions: that they return the two swords, and that they give back the bride-gift of three thousand marks. The third point is a moral accusation, but it is framed in an economic metaphor: the brothers are worth less, since they struck their own wives. The key term menosvaler sums up emblematically the relationship between wealth and honor, economic and moral "worth."

The poem ends in a curiously unhistorical fashion. The Cid's daughters will become queens of two kingdoms, according to the poet, who returns to this theme just before he refers to the Cid's death:

Los primeros (casamientos) fueron grandes mas
aquestos son mijores;
a mayor ondra las casa que lo que pnmero fue' !ved qual ondra creçe al que en buen ora naçio quando señoras son sus fijas de Navarra e
de Aragon!
Oy los reyes d'España sos parientes son

The Cid's historical daughters, Cristina and María, married respectively Ramiro, lord of Monzón in Navarre, and Ramón Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona. Thus neither of his daughters became queen, and they did not marry the infantes of Navarre and Aragon, although confusion on these points is conceivable in a poet composing in the mid-twelfth century or later since the son of Cristina and Ramiro became King of Navarre in 1134 and Barcelona was united to Aragon in 1137. Questions of title are not generally obscure to contemporaries, so that it is likely the poem was composed in a form not too far from the one in which we have these lines long enough after 1137 for people's memories to have become clouded regarding the chronology. In any event it is more than surprising that a poet who knows the names of the Cid's minor historical associates, such as Pero Vermúdez, Muño Gustioz, Martin Muñoz, Alvar Salvadórez, and Diego Téllez, should err on whether the hero's daughters were queens, and of what political entities. His inaccuracy on these points, although partly justified by later historical developments, at the very least exaggerates the Cid's rise to respectability among the very highest class of nobles. Why should a singer of the twelfth or early thirteenth century be so intent on depicting his hero's meteoric ascent as to represent the Cid's immediate progeny as queens at the risk that some members of the audience would recognize the error? The answer to this question provides an explanation for the poet's concern with the acquisition of wealth, gift-giving, and other economic phenomena.

Let us return to the court scene. There are two heirs of Carrión, each of whom is challenged to single combat by one of the Cid's men, who will use the swords Colada and Tizón in their respective duels so that, fittingly, the two brothers will be tested by the very instruments which they received under the false pretense of marriage-alliance with the Cid. But unexpectedly a third duel is proposed, provoked by Asur Gonçález, elder brother to the heirs of Carrión, who enters the palace and flings an apparently gratuitous insult at the Cid:

"'Hya varones! 'Quien vio nunca tal mal?
!Quien nos darie nuevas de mio Çid el de Bivar!
!Fuesse a Rio d'Ovirna los maquilas picar
e prender maquilas commo lo suele tar!
?Quil darie con los de Carrion a casar?"

This curious intervention might at first seem to be only an attack on the hero's position at the low end of the noble hierarchy, since as an infanzón he was entitled to collect feudal dues on the use of mills which came under his jurisdiction. But as Menéndez Pidal points out, mills were prized possessions of the seignorial class. Asur Gonçález is probably not simply assimilating the Cid's possession of a mill to the actual operations performed by the miller, for as rude as such a quip might be, it would hardly justify a challenge to mortal combat such as Muño Gustioz subsequently proffers, nor is it equal in weight to the outrage of Corpes which will be avenged by the other two duels which are to be fought on the same occasion. The maquila was a portion of wheat given to the miller in return for his services, and the Cid as an infanzón would hardly be expected to receive recompense under that rubric, although he would take other types of payment from a miller working under his jurisdiction. Asur Gonçález's words convey a far greater affront, an innuendo about the Cid's birth, suggesting that he is descended from a miller and thus entitled to a miller's pay. Verse 3379, scornfully exhorting the Cid to go to his mill on the river Ubierna, the location of Vivar, and roughen the millstones, can only mean that for Asur Gonçález the Cid is a miller. A person of such low rank would indeed be ill-advised to aspire to a marriage tie with the powerful combat family of the Vani-Gómez.

An obscure legend, preserved primarily in the romancero, has it that the Cid was the illegitimate son of Diego Laínez, and one version reports that his mother was a molinera. The agreement between this detail and Asur Gonçález's otherwise senseless insult can hardly be coincidental. Acceptance of the Cid's daughters as queens of Aragon and Navarre would be convincing proof that his accomplishments transcended and annuled the disadvantages of his bastardy. Asur Gonçález's defeat at the hands of the Cid's vassal shows that God approves of the hero's deeds in spite of the fact that he was conceived out of wedlock, for the duel takes the form of an ordeal.

The Cantar de mio Cid differs from the other extant Romance epics in its author's obsession with the acquisition of wealth, then, not only on account of the differing social and political conditions of Reconquest Spain, but because, unlike most of the heroes whose legends are recounted in poems belonging to this genre, the Cid does not enter the straggle with his honor intact. The amassing of riches and their proper use allow him to rise to the dignity and rank which great nobles of unblemished descent, such as the heirs of Carrión, could claim by birth. He is a king by right of conquest, excelling in knightly virtues that might well have been called into doubt by his maternal ancestry. Seen in this light, the Cantar de mio Cid is the story of how courage and prowess are transmuted into economic power, and wealth into lineage, the highest in Spain. As such it is a message to the lesser nobles of Castile, because if the Cid, whose line of descent was in question and whose king exiled him from his land, could raise his kin to the level of royalty through his participation in the Reconquest, then other nobles of his class could legitimately aspire to the same heights of success in invading Arab-controlled lands which enjoyed, despite their political troubles, the most prosperous economy in medieval Europe at this time.

The obscure allusion to Rodrigo of Vivar's bastardy calls to mind a similarly fleeting reference in the Carolingian foundation myth as it is found in the Oxford manuscript of The Chanson de Roland. I refer, of course, to Charlemagne's Sin. As with the Cid ..., the question of Roland's parentage is clouded. Neither the poet of the Oxford Chanson de Roland nor the one who composed the extant Cantar de mio Cid devotes more than a passing allusion to the issue of the respective hero's birth; it is nonetheless intriguing that in each case the problem of illegitimacy surfaces. In societies such as these where kinship is a pervasive social bond, and in which a person is considered to be legally responsible for acts committed by his kinsmen—above all in a genre in which lineage, one of the two principal meanings of the term geste, is one of the most important determinants of character—illegitimacy, whether it results from royal incest or simply from a paternal liaison with a commoner, represents a most serious deficiency. Roland's case differs from the Cid's in obvious ways. Nevertheless I believe that as with the Cantar de mio Cid, the meaning of the Oxford Chanson de Roland in its social context is closely linked with the theme of the hero's birth.

While historians of the Romance epic, dominated by a concern for origins, formerly sought to isolate the historical kernel preserved in each work, a focussing of attention on how singers have distorted history and on the circumstances or purposes which have led them to do so will undoubtedly teach us more about the genre's function in society. Modern political forces tend in sometimes subtle ways to appropriate for themselves the "tale of the tribe," as Ezra Pound characterized epic. This deformation of the past is an interesting phenomenon in itself, and its study will enable us to compensate in part for a collective wish to see the past in certain ways. The philologist's task is to appreciate medieval uses of epic legends, although at the same time he realizes that total awareness of them is unattainable. No one knew the Cid tradition as manifested in epic, chronicle, and romancero better than Menendez Pidal, but he failed to see the meaning of a key element in the Cantar de mio Cid, one without which the poem's ending is a puzzle. Bédier was aware of the motif of Charlemagne's Sin, but, oblivious to the Oxford poet's admonition against ignoring it, he did not consider it to be an important theme. One cannot help thinking that these giants of scholarship were little inclined to pursue clues leading to revelations which might be considered unflattering for the foundation myths of their respective nations. Not that either one was consciously engaged in obfuscation. Rather in one instance the political and intellectual climate fostered by the Generation of '98, and in the other a propensity to identify Roland's Franks with the French, may have left no scope for the idea that the greatest of heroes were tainted by the circumstances of their birth or that the "national" epics, nos épopées as both Gautier and Bédier preemptively referred to them, could have such a theme among their key interpretive elements.

The different versions of Chanson de Roland have taken on various meanings for their singers and audiences. To the late eleventh-century noble French public, however, about to heed Urban II' s exhortation that it follow in the footsteps of the epic Charlemagne to recover the Holy Land from the Arabs, Roland is an exemplary hero because he was able to overcome the impediments of his birth. To Castilian singers whose lords had to resort to unique forms of land tenure in order to encourage repopulation of border territory vacated by the retreating Muslims, the Cid represented an ideal model, achieving for his descendants access to the highest level of society although he may himself have been a bastard. Both these heroes, deprived of the privileges of irreproachable ancestry, acquired legitimacy in the eyes of the epic public through their own actions. (pp. 231-32)

Source: Joseph J Duggan, "Legitimation and the Hero's Exemplary Function in the 'Cantar de mio Cid' and the 'Chanson de Roland'," in Oral Traditional Literature A Festschriftfor Albert Bates Lord, edited by John Miles Foley, Slavica Publishers, 1981, pp. 217-34

The Cid and His Spain

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6863

As an epic hero the Cid stands in a class by himself. History has little or nothing to say about the protagonists of the Greek, Germanic or French epics. From the ruins revealed by learned excavators we know that the Trojan War was an event that actually took place at Troy, so that the excavations confirm and illustrate the veracity of Homeric poetry. But we shall never know anything about Achilles, nor, for that matter, about Siegfried, whom we can only suspect to have been an historic personage, as Günther, the King of Burgundy, at whose Court Knemhild's husband loved and died, undoubtedly was. The historians of Charlemagne assure us that Roland, Count of Brittany, really existed; but beyond this fact all we know of him is his disastrous end. Those heroic lives will for ever remain purely in the region of poetry and intangible for the purpose of historical analysis. The Cid, however, is a hero of a very different type. From the height of his idealism he descends with a firm step on to the stage of history to face unflinchingly a greater danger than had ever beset him in life, that of having his history written by the very people on whom he had so often waged war and by modern scholars who as a rule show even less understanding than the enemies he humiliated.

For the Cid, unlike the other heroes, did not belong to those early times when history still lagged far behind poetry. The broad stream of poetic creation along which Achilles, Siegfried and Roland glide, may be likened to a mysterious Nile whose sources have never been explored; whereas the epic river of the Cid may be traced to its earliest origins, to the very heights above their confluence, where poetry and history rise. Philological criticism enables us to explore primitive history and takes us back to the poetry of the hero's own age, the works inspired either by his deeds or by a vivid recollection of them. This contemporary poetry, which has come down to us about the Spanish hero but not about the others, may help to complete our historical knowledge of the heroic character, just as, when it agrees with the records, that poetry has helped us to establish the facts of the hero's life.

Renan is utterly mistaken when, in docilely acknowledging the divorcement by Dozy of the poetic from the historic Cid, he considers that "no other hero has lost so much in passing from legend to history." For the truth is that history and poetry, if taken to mean duly documented history and primitive poetry, show rare agreementin characterization, in spite of the fact that on no other epic hero has the light of history shone more relentlessly. Often, indeed, the character of the real Cid is found to be of greater poetical interest than that of the traditional hero. Legend achieved much that is of poetic value, but it left unworked many veins that appear in the rock of the hero's real life in the rough, natural state in which the beauties of nature occur.

Much has been written about the "heroic age'' and the society and culture of those barbaric and lawless times, when pride in personal glory and lust for wealth overruled all other feelings. Yet to my mind, the heroic age, in the widest sense of the term, is distinguished by one essential characteristic only, and that a literary one; it is the age in which history habitually takes on a poetic shape, the age in which an epic form of literature arises to supply the public want of information about events of general interest either of the time or the recent past. This epic form of history, of course, only appears in primitive times, before culture has reached the stage of producing erudite works in prose; as historiography advances, the epopee loses its pristine vigour.

But in Spain, the scene of the last heroic age of the western world, that age coincided with the historic age, and epic poetry continued to be the vehicle for conveying the news of the day down to the time of the Cid despite the fact that history had already reached a fair stage of development. Thus, in view of the difference in time and circumstance separating the heroic age of Spain from that of other countries, it is not to be expected that the mind of the Campeador would work in unison with that of Beowulf. And so it is that we do not claim to have discovered in the Cid the heroic, but merely an heroic, character. Our main interest will lie in obtaining a close view of a hero, the last hero to cross the threshold from the heroic to the historic age.

The most modern trait in the character of the hero, who lived during this period of transition, is his loyalty. His is not the loyalty of a vassal in the rude heroic ages to the lord for whom he fought; it is the loyalty of a vassal to a king who persisted in persecuting him, a virtue that none of the other persecuted heroes of epic poetry possessed. The Cid of reality, though exiled, remained true to his king; though grossly insulted by Alphonso, he bore with him and treated him with respect. According to law, he owed no fealty to the King, and yet his loyalty was unswerving. Though the King was openly hostile to his occupation of Valencia, he placed the city, to use his own phrase,"under the overlordship of my lord and king, Don Alphonso." These words are recorded by the Arab historian and are echoed in the old Poem, where Alvar Hañez is sent by the Cid to offer the conquered city to the King in spite of his having obstinately refused to lift the ban of exile.

This attitude would be incomprehensible if, as is possible, we were to assume that the motives of the Spanish hero were purely personal. True, all heroes, whether of Greek, Teutonic, or Romance poetry, act under the impulse of personal honour and glory; indeed, the personal motive is so strong that, in the French epic, notwithstanding the highly developed national spirit, the hero who rebels against the King when offended by him, is constantly glorified. But if, on the other hand, the Cid of poetry is on all occasions respectful towards his royal persecutor, it is because the longed-for pardon means reconciliation with "fair Castile," which he puts before his personal pride. The King and his country, his native land, to him are one and the same thing. And so the Cid of history appears eager and, at times, over ready to be reconciled with Alphonso and at the same time distrusts Berenguer and is slow to accept his proffered friendship.

The fact that, contrary to the custom established in the law and poetry of the time, neither the Cid of history nor the Cid of fiction makes war on his king but remains loyal to him, shows the extent to which the hero subordinated personal motives to love of country, thereby betraying a spirit practically unknown to the heroic types of older epic poems. This same patriotism also finds expression in his famous resolve to reconquer the whole of Spain and even, as the old poem maintains, lay Morocco under tribute to King Alphonso.

The Cid, who refrains from retaliating against his king although authorized by mediaeval law to do so, and who ignores the monarch's insults at Ubeda, is equally anxious to avoid an encounter with the King of Aragon or Berenguer, to each of whom he makes friendly overtures before adopting an aggressive attitude. He grants generous terms to the defeated Valencians, in spite of their repeated infringements of the treaty of surrender; he returns a lawful prize taken from the Moorish messengers when on their way to Murcia; and finally, he refuses presents of doubtful origin when proffered by Ibn Jehhaf.

The Cid of poetry, coming at a later time than the other epic heroes, also displays this moderation, which is the outstanding virtue of the chivalrous type that succeeded the heroic type of the earlier ages.

But, in depicting him as constantly moderate, poetry diverges from fact. For when the real Cid's patience was exhausted, his violence knew no bounds. When he realizes that loyal submission is all in vain, he devastates the lands of Alphonso's favourite vassal; when repulsed by Berenguer, he sets the etiquette of the Court of Barcelona at naught; when the Valencians persist in siding with the Almoravides, he passes from the greatest clemency to the greatest severity. He was, indeed, ever apt to go to extremes. As soon as he had captured Berenguer, his attitude to him at once changed from rancour to the utmost generosity. Enigmatic and capricious, he loved to play with an adversary, as when he scorned the offer of the royal gardens at Valencia, only to seize them later at a most unexpected moment.

The thirst for treasure which he shares with the heroes of barbaric times, has already been referred to; it forms a strange contrast to the generosity he showed on other occasions.

The Cid, as a representative figure of his race, was tightly bound by atavistic ties of both ritualism and superstition. History and poetry agree that he was guided by omens. The birds of prey that crossed his path foretold to him the result of his exile, of the fording of a river, of his daughters' journey. This superstitiousness was deeply engrained in men-at-arms, though it frequently gave rise to rebuke, such as that which Berenguer hurled at the Cid at Tevar.

According to the Poem, the Cid was addicted to ritual. In a moment of great emotion, on his return from exile, he does homage to the King by biting the grass, which is a very ancient symbol of submission. To publish the grief he felt at his unjust banishment, he swore he would never again cut his beard, well knowing that thereby he would make both Moors and Christians talk. To go unshorn as a sign of grief was an old and common custom, but the Cid observed it so faithfully that he came to be called "Mio Cid, el de la barba grant.'' The whole Court of Toledo was astonished to see him appear with his beard pleated, a well-known though rare sign of deep mourning; then, hardly has justice been done to him, when he unravels his beard and resumes his normal appearance. Not that he was ever a slave to tradition. He was an innovator in all he did, whether in combating the traditionalism of Leon, abandoning the tactics generally adopted by Spaniards and Burgundians, in order to overcome the Almoravides, in promoting the reform of the clergy, or in revolutionizing, as he actually did, heroic poetry.

The Cid's detractors paint him as a mere outlaw, a bandit who knew no honour; but both the Arab and the Latin historians agree with the early poets that his whole career was governed by his attitude to the law. Here again we find the Cid combining the characteristics of the two epochs, the heroic age and the chivalrous age that followed it.

When the chivalrous ideal had been perfected and formulated, it was held to be the duty of a knight to defend the rights of the weak, with the result that a knowledge of legal matters became a knightly accomplishment. Chivalric literature, from its birth to its death, bears this out. Old Gonzalo Gustioz of Salas, in enumerating the attainments of his deceased son, speaks of him as "learned in the law and fond of judging," and the last perfect knight, Don Quixote, also acts as a judge and shows that he possessed a thorough knowledge of the law.

The Cid on several occasions gave evidence of this knightly accomplishment: when acting as counsel for the monastery of Cardeña; as judge at Oviedo, where he interpreted Gothic law and inquired into the authenticity of a deed; and again when drawing subtle distinctions in the drafting of a fourfold form of oath. The Cid of poetry likewise pleaded his cause with skill and method before the court of Toledo.

The Cid always applied the law, according to its loftiest conception. In his youth, as champion of Castile, he fought out the legal duel against Navarre, and at Santa Gadea he exacted the oath, no doubt in the same capacity. Later, when aggrieved by Alphonso, as an exile, he had two legal courses open to him, to make war on his sovereign or to seek reconciliation. He chose the second course throughout. Availing himself of the means afforded by mediaeval law for regaining royal favour, he twice hastened to the aid of his king; on a third occasion, he attempted to clear himself by the ordeal of a legal oath. It is only when all these attempts at reconciliation have failed and he has been made to suffer fresh and more grievous wrongs, that he exercises his right to make war on the King's lands; and, when this time comes, the heavy hand of the Campeador achieves what his moderation had steadfastly failed to do. But to call the Cid an enemy of his country, as Masdeu and Dozy call him, is simply absurd.

Owing to this failure to recognize his two distinct lines of conduct, the Cid's relations with the Moors have also been misunderstood. His attitude to the Spanish Moslems may be summed up in his own declaration: "If I act lawfully, God will leave me Valencia; but if with pride and injustice, I know He will take her away from me." Even the usually malevolent Ibn Alcama admits that the Cid dealt very fairly with the Valencians. But when, in their anxiety to remain under Islam, the Moors of Spain called in the Africans, the Cid perforce took up a different stand: thenceforth the war could only end in the expulsion of the invader and the complete submission of the Spanish Moors.

The contrast between these two lines of conduct is most pronounced during the Valencian revolution, when on the assassination of his protégé King Al-Kadir, the city was handed over to the Almoravides. The Cid launches forth on the siege of Valencia, his greatest military enterprise, as an act as much of justice as of policy, and he determines not to rest until he has punished the regicide and driven out the African intruders. On the expulsion of the Almoravides and the surrender of the city, he begins by treating the Valencians with benovelence; but, when he finds that they continue to intrigue with the Africans, he ceases to respect Moslem law and resorts to the mailed fist of the conqueror. His detractors attribute this change of conduct to mere arbitrariness, but the fact remains that it was based on political justice.

Although poetic exaggeration clothes all heroes in the mantle of invincibility, it is surprising to find that, so far as the Cid is concerned, fact agrees with fiction.

The fame that the Cid enjoyed amongst his contemporaries is expressed in the name of Campeador or "victorious," given him by Moors and Christians alike; in the phrase "invictissimus princeps" used in the Valencian charter; and in the "invincibilis bellator" of the Historia Roderici, which adds that he "invariably triumphed." Further, the Poema de la conquista de Almeria, composed in Latin some fifty years after his death, says of the hero: ".. .of whom it is sung that no foe ever overcame him."

Ibn Bassam himself emphasizes the Cid's extraordinary victories, typical instances of which were the combats at Tamarite, where he overcame odds of twelve to one, and at Zamora, where alone and unaided he defeated fifteen knights. But the exceptional superiority of the Campeador was never more patent than when he tackled the Almoravides as an entirely new and hitherto invincible military organization. He alone, at Cuarte and Bairen, was successful against the invaders, routing their armies and taking a great number of captives; he alone was able to conquer Valencia, Almenara and Murviedro in spite of their determined opposition. This contrast is in itself sufficient to bring out in full relief the military genius of the ever victorious Cid.

At times the hero found himself in situations so desperate that to all others everything seemed lost, when of a sudden his keen vision would descry the hidden opportunity that led to success. In emergencies such as a surprise attack by night he would tremble with excitement and grind his teeth; whenever there was the prospect of a battle his heart would leap with joy ("gaudenter expectavit"). The poet is at one with the historian when he tells of the hero's fierce glee on sighting the imposing array of the Almoravides: "Delight has come to me from overseas."

The Cid's infallible tactics on occasions struck panic into his enemies. Latin and Arab historians relate how the host of García Ordoñez at Alberite, the mighty mehalla of the Almoravides at Almuzafes, and the knights of Ramon Berenguer the Great at Oropesa were all routed without daring even to face the Cid. The battle of Cuarte also suggests panic among the enemy. Legend seized upon this terror-striking ascendancy of the hero to suggest that no Saracen could meet the eye of the Cid without trembling.

The Cid's chroniclers narrate the personal share he took in all his enterprises. The extent to which he exposed himself upon the field of battle is shown by the many mishaps he suffered and the narrow escapes he had. In the sphere of government, he assumed many duties; he administered justice at Valencia several times a week and he it was who exposed the bad faith of the envoys sent to Murcia. His extraordinary powers of organization are seen in the rapid rise of Juballa from a smouldering ruin to a flourishing city and in the way he rebuilt and enlarged the suburb of Alcudia.

His prodigious and unremitting energy enabled him to master the highly complex problems of Eastern Spain that had baffled the Emperor, Alvar Hañez, the Kings of Aragon, Saragossa and Denia and the Counts of Barcelona. In face of their futile claims, he established and tenaciously maintained his protectorate over the coveted and disunited region. When his work had been twice undone, he patiently built it up again in spite of seemingly insuperable difficulties presented, in the first place, by the jealous rage of Alphonso and, in the second, by the ambition of Yusuf.

It savours of madness that a single man, unsupported by any national organization and lacking resources even for a day, should appear before Valencia determined upon restoring a rule that had been overthrown this second time by an enemy who had proved irresistible to the strongest power in Spain; that he should dream of doing what the Christian Emperor had failed to do, and in the teeth of the Moslem Emir's opposition. That memorable day in October, 1092, when he pitted his will-power against all the chances and changes of fortune, marks the zenith of heroism.

From which it may be gathered that, even more noteworthy than the Cid's activity and success, is his exceptional firmness of purpose. Indeed, when he first left for exile, he conceived a plan of action in the East and to its execution he devoted the rest of his life.

Ten years after the hero's death, Ibn Bassam, in a passage vibrant with mingled hate and admiration, pays the highest tribute to the superhuman energy of the Campeador:

The power of this tyrant became ever more intolerable; it weighed like a heavy load upon the people of the coast and inland regions, filling all men, both near and far, with fear. His intense ambition, his lust for power caused all to tremble. Yet this man, who was the scourge of his age, was, by his unflagging and clear-sighted energy, his virile character, and his heroism, a miracle among the great miracles of the Almighty.

Thus, like Manzoni in his famous ode on the death of Napoleon, the Moslem enemy bowed reverently before a creative genius that bore the imprint of God.

Nemo propheta acceptus est in patria sua

The Cid was first active in promoting the aims of Castile against Leon and Navarre. His action was decisive at a critical period of Spanish history, for thanks to his victories as the ensign of Sancho II, the political hegemony passed from Leon to Castile.

King Sancho and his ensign made an admirable combination: the king, exuberant and ambitious, his vassal restrained and capable. Together, they set out to change the map of Spain. And, although the course of history is shaped more by collective than by individual effort, had this happy association not been brought to an untimely end by the murder at Zamora, it may safely be assumed that the African invasion would have been stayed and the Reconquest expedited by further immediate successes such as Coimbra, Coria and Toledo. This was clearly seen by the men of the time, to whom the hero's exile appeared a grave blunder on the part of the monarch. This feeling is voiced in the famous line of the old poem: "Lord, how good a vassal, were but the liege as good!"

But the King was not the only one to blame. When Alphonso was enthroned in Castile, the barons curried favour with him and turned against the Cid, refusing to admit the exile's worth. Rejected by Castile, the Campeador had to seek an outlet for his energy elsewhere. After great pains, he succeeded in forging an alliance, first with the Count of Barcelona, and afterwards, with the King of Aragon. Thus, his sometime opponents, the Catalans and the Aragonese, came to appreciate the hero before Alphonso and his Castilians.

Literature bears out this shifting of the Cid's activity and fame. As Du Meril and Milá indicate, the earliest known song of the Cid, the Carmen Roderici, is of Catalan and not of Castilian origin. Later, and working on independent lines, I proved—-I think, conclusively—that the second poetic record, the Poema del Cid, was not of Old Castilian origin either, but was composed in the "extremaduras'' or borderlands of Medinaceh by a jongleur whose pronunciation was different from that of the Castilians. Now, on deeper research into the historical sources (and again independently of the former investigations) I find to my surprise that the first historical text, the Historia Roderici, is also foreign to Castile. It was written on the borderland between Saragossa and Lerida, the scene of the Cid's activities in the second part of his life; and the author even accuses the Castilians of being envious of the hero and incapable of understanding him.

The important inference to be drawn from these facts is that admiration for the Cid was first awakened, not at Burgos, but in the more distant lands of Saragossa and what was later known as Catalonia, on the borders of that eastern region which he had made safe during the latter years of his life. It was during these years that Castile, which had witnessed his first exploits, yielded to the all-absorbing character of the Emperor, and the less pliant spirits of Burgos, such as Martin Antolinez, chose to follow the Cid into exile. Thus it came about that officially Burgos only recognized the heroism of her son after his fame had reached her from abroad. True, indeed, it is that "no man is a prophet in his own country,'' except he be some local celebrity, quite unknown outside his own narrow circle.

The idea of a united Spain, which apparently obsessed the Cid. was, as has been shown above, not of Castilian, but of Leonese origin. A change came, when a new conception of nationhood arose in the minds of Basques and Castilians, to take the place of the Leonese imperial idea, and for this change the Cid was largely responsible.

If we were to take the usual view that the idea of Spanish unity was purely Castilian, we should have to regard the
Cid, as Masdeu and his followers did, solely from a Castilian angle, and, like them, we should fail to understand him. It may be true that he is the hero of Burgos, but his heroism is displayed in non-Castilian as well as Castilian aspects, and it is wrong to regard these as antagonistic. Unquestionably the Cid was the first to abandon the already worn-out idea of a Leonese empire and embrace the new Castilian aims that were to usher in the modern Spain. But when Castile, after the assassination at Zamora, bowed to King Alphonso of Leon, the Cid was compelled to strike out in a fresh direction; and it was as an exile that he outstripped his own country in fighting for the national ideal.

In spite of many vicissitudes, the Cid embodied that ideal throughout his exile, from the time when he withdrew before Alphonso, who was working for the old Leonese empire, to the time when he broke the force of the African invasion in campaigns that were frowned upon by the King of Leon and Castile.

The exclusion of the Cid from the Court and Castile served but to accentuate his position as a truly national figure; and it is significant that he should have had fighting side by side with his Castilians, the Asturian Muño Gustioz, the Aragonese knights of Sancho Ramirez and Pedro I, and the Portuguese followers of the Count of Coimbra and Montemayor. This co-operation in the common cause is recognized by the early Poem:

How well he fights in saddle set in gold, My Cid, the mighty warrior, Ruy Diaz, Martin Antolinez, the worthy Burgalese, Muño Gustioz, brought up by him, The good Galin Garcia, of Aragon, Martin Muñoz, the count of Mont Mayor!

These lines, brief as an heraldic motto, are to Spaniards what Homer's list of ships was to the Hellenes. The fact that knights from so many parts of the Peninsula fought under his banner renders the Cid's campaigns real campaigns of Spain, and, despite the envy of the barons of Burgos, of Castile as well.

But, neither love of his home land nor his wider patriotism made the Cid narrow-minded. The appointment of a Cluniac monk to the see of Valencia shows that he welcomed western ideas as an influence that would lift Spain out of her former isolation. Such an attitude on the part of the most typical hero of Spain may give food for thought to those who, in a spirit of bigoted nationalism, would close the door to all foreign influence as being detrimental to "the descendants of Pelayo and the Cid."

The Cid was extolled, not so much for promoting Castile's hegemonic aspirations, as for his conquest of Valencia. In the early Poem he is frequently alluded to as "My Cid, who won Valencia."

Dozy, in an access of Cidophobia less virulent than usual, sought to belittle this conquest by saying: "The Cid took the proud and rich city of Valencia, but what advantage did the Spaniards gain from its capture? The Cid's followers certainly won a great deal of booty, but Spain won nothing; for the Arabs regained the city on the death of Rodrigo." Nevertheless, although he never amended the passage, the author seems to have been so convinced of its absurdity that he deleted it from the second edition of his work (1881).

In the first place, the conquest of Valencia set a great example of heroic effort. According to the Aragonese historian, Zurita, it was the most extraordinary achievement ever performed in Spain by anyone but a king. He adds that, even had the King of Castile, the most powerful monarch in Spain, engaged his whole forces in the effort, he would have found it extremely difficult to conquer so populous a city in the very heart of the Moorish country. Alphonso did, in fact, throw his whole strength into the attempt, and failed.

In the second place, Dozy, in likening the conquest of Valencia to a mere marauding expedition, is greatly in error. It was far different from the conquest of Barbastro, where the troops of the papal standard-bearer abandoned themselves to plunder and sensuality. The Cid's work was one of reconquest, and he carried it out after the manner of the Spanish kings; he reorganized the lands that he had won, restored the ancient bishopric, and established himself in the city with his family. Had he been granted the normal span of life, Castile would have seen her dream of consolidating her hold upon the old Carthaginian Province realized, and there would have been a totally different distribution of the realms throughout the Peninsula.

In spite of the hero's premature death, the results of the conquest were highly important. An extraordinary revival was then taking place in Islam. Whilst the Turks in the East were routing the Byzantines and, having captured their Emperor, were depriving him of provinces as large as Spain, the Berbers in the West were defeating and driving back the Emperor of Leon. Once again, as in the early days of Arab expansion, the Mediterranean was assailed at either end, but Europe saved the situation by the agency of the Cid in the West and the crusaders in the East.

The anxiety of Urban II at the Almoravide invasion of Spain has led to the belief that the crusades were originally planned by the Pope, in ignorance of the divided state of Islam, as a military diversion. However this may be, there is no denying that, whereas the Turks were causing concern in the East alone, the Almoravides were reckoned a powerful danger to Europe, as was proved by the great French expedition to the Ebro valley in 1087. It is clear also that the Cid, in founding his Valencian principality amidst the Moors, anticipated what the crusaders did at Jerusalem, Antioch, Edessa and Tripoli. True, the Valencian principality did not long survive its founder; but then those other Christian principalities were also ephemeral and only lasted longer because the crusaders had all Europe behind them, whereas the Cid could not even count on the help of his king. Moreover, the crusaders established their States in opposition to emirates that were considerably smaller than the Taifa kingdoms, and they soon succumbed when confronted by a coherent power such as that of Saladin; nor could the united forces of England, France and Germany, even under leaders like Richard Coeur de Lion and Philip Augustus, regain Jerusalem or Edessa. The Cid, on the other hand, built up and held his dominions in the teeth of the bitterest opposition on the part of the Taifas and Yusuf ibn Teshufin, one of Islam's greatest conquerors and head of a huge empire, then at the height of its power. The comparison remains striking even when other factors, such as the distance of the crusaders' field of operation, are taken into account.

Finally, the dominion of the Cid at Valencia was of more immediate importance to Europe as a dam against the Almoravide flood. It is significant, though the fact has hitherto passed unnoticed, that both Ibn Bassam and the Historia Roderici agree that his conquest of Valencia stemmed the African invasion and prevented it from reaching the most outlying Moslem Kingdoms of Lerida and Saragossa. That was the spring-tide of the invasion and, had it flooded the Ebro basin, Aragon and Barcelona, being much weaker states than Castile, would both have suffered a greater disaster than Sagrajas. The threat of invasion held out by Alphonso VI as a warning to the French barons, might then have been fulfilled. Indeed, the German historian, V. A. Huber, though unaware of that warning, stresses the importance of the conquests by the Cid as a barrier protecting, not only Spain, but the whole of Western Europe from the Moslem peril. And from all accounts that seems to have been the general impression at the time. (pp. 418-35)

We have already pointed out how concerned the Cid was that the law should at all times be observed. That this alone surrounded him with a halo in the eyes of the people is shown by the fact that the most artistic episodes of the two principal early poems are based on a lofty conception of the law.

The final scene of the Cantar de Zamora depicts with great dramatic effect the taking of the oath at Santa Gadea. If there the Cid imposed his will upon Alphonso VI, it was not in defence of any personal right or privilege, such as so many medieval barons exacted of their king, but to protest against the usurpation of the throne and insist upon the fulfilment of the laws of succession. This scene, therefore, endured, not because of the events that gave rise to it, but because of its capital importance in characterizing the hero. As late as that tragic period of transition from the last century to the present, Joaquin Costa, while denying the Cid of armour and Tizon for fear lest his memory should again plunge Spain into warlike adventure, did not hesitate to invoke the Cid of Santa Gadea and would gladly have seen every Spaniard equally solicitous to uphold the law and at the same time demand satisfaciton from his rulers.

The Poema del Cid presents the great scene of the Cortes at Toledo, where, in striking contrast to the general custom of mediaeval epic, the Cid is shown forgoing vengeance in favour of the legal satisfaction afforded by the court. In my work, Poema de Mio Cid, I have pointed out the revolution that choice occasioned in the poetry of the time. There can be no doubt that it reflects the real outlook of the Cid and reveals in him the moral characteristics that inspired the poets.

It is astonishing to find moderation poetized as a characteristic of the most redoubtable of warriors; and yet, not only did he always subordinate his own strength to the law, but he knew how to temper justice with mercy.

The Poema del Cid shows a keen perception of the value of this self-restraint as a poetic theme and even suppresses the traces of violence to be found in the hero's true character. The Cid of fact, who waives his right as a nobleman to fight against his lord, provides one of the main inspirations of the poem: the loyalty of the hero, despite the unjust harshness of the monarch. Even with the great insult still smarting in his brain, the Cid speaks "well and in measured language." In this connection, the Poem again strikes a singular note; for, whereas the Spanish cantares and French chansons glorify the rebel exile who rode rough-shod over all who came his way, the jongleur of the Cid, true to the grave conception of life held by his hero, sought ideality in another direction and produced an exile of perfect bearing, moderate at all times, and showing the greatest respect for those social and political institutions that might well have trammelled his heroic energy. The hero and his poet, in imbuing the epic with this ideal, show themselves to be far ahead of their time. For centuries nobles continued to take private vengeance and make war upon their king and country, and the poets kept pace with them by singing of the violence of their heroes and even inventing, in the Mocedades, an insolent and overbearing Cid.

Again, the Cid of the Poem forbears to insist on his rights as a victor, witness his treatment of the Count of Barcelona. Anxious to make a good impression on the vanquished Moors, he treats them with generosity, "lest they speak ill of me," and, when he leaves them, they are sorry to lose his protection:

The Moorish men and maids
Bless him and wish "God speed."
But, must thou go, My Cid?
Our prayers do thee precede.

How different a character from the Charlemagne of the Chanson de Roland who calls for the conversion of the Saracens by fire and sword!

The high principles of the Cid, especially at a time of resurgence of spiritual values, are thus one of the main reasons why he was sung, both at home and abroad. Already in the second half of the twelfth century German poets (informed no doubt by pilgrim jongleurs from Compostela) had made an obvious copy of Rodrigo de Vivar in the figure of the margrave Rüdiger, who was later embodied in the Nibelungenlied as a model of chivalry, brave, triumphant, and loyal: Rüdiger, the good, the true, the noble, who gave his life fighting for his principles against an overwhelming force.

Further evidence of the base upon which the idealization of the Cid as a hero rests, is furnished by the Poema de la conquista de Almeria, written about 1150, when the early gests appeared. The author, after extolling the Cid's invincibility, proceeds to show that he used his strength, not only against the threat of foreign danger, but also against the intrigues of the counts at home:

ipse Rodencus, mio Cidi saepe vocatus,
de quo cantatur quod ab hostibus haud superatur,
qui domuit mauros, comites domuit
quoque nostros.

The banishment of the Cid furnishes a typical instance of the instability of the social fabric. The age produced the man required, but Society banned him from his natural sphere. A really invincible captain had arisen in Spain, only to find his efforts frustrated by the antagonistic counts of Najera, Oca and Carrion; he could obtain neither the co-operation of the Count of Barcelona to help him dominate the East, nor that of the Emperor of Leon to prevent the disasters of Sagrajas, Jaen, Consuegra and Lisbon.

So far as the Cid was concerned, envy acted as the most powerful dissolvent of the social bonds. The Cid was envied by many of his peers and even by his kinsmen; he was envied by the greatest men at Court, even by the Emperor himself; one and all, they rejected him from motives of pure spite to, as events soon proved, their own detriment. The charge of in-vidia, so often preferred by the Latin historian, connotes a lack of vision: "castellani invidentes." Such an in-vidente was Alphonso, who found it convenient to promote García Ordoñez in preference to the Cid; such also was the Count of Najera himself, who supplanted one who was better than he; such, in short, were all the counts whom the Cid had to subdue. Thus, the phrase of the Poema de la conquista de Almeria, "comites domuit nostros," acquires a general significance by extolling the Cid as the hero of the struggle with the jealous nobles.

In face of this blind, malignant envy, the Cid showed neither discouragement nor rancour. When exiled, he sought no direct vengeance, however much he was entitled to do so; nor did he, like Achilles, sulk in his tent and hope for the defeat of his detractors. On the contrary, he repeatedly went to the help of the King who had exiled him and, in spite of a series of rebuffs from his countrymen, took the only dignified course left open to him; he withdrew his invaluable energy to a distant field where envy and mortification could not reach him, but where he could still co-operate, whether they wished it or not, with his backbiters.

The Cid sought and found his support among the enthusiastic and loyal countrymen of the outlying districts and in the spirit of comradeship he instilled into the motley crowd that flocked to his standard; courteous towards the humble, he showed himself as deferential to his cook, when the occasion demanded, as he was firm, though respectful, in the presence of the Emperor of the two religions. In the midst of that strange host he displayed his heroism, and no sooner had he conquered a kingdom than he presented it to his unjust sovereign, by recognizing "the overlordship of his King, Don Alphonso.'' In seeking reconciliation with the King and humbling himself before him at Toledo in a scene to which the early poet attaches capital importance, the Cid reaches the apogee of heroism by achieving a victory over his own unruly spirit. Though his great victories had rendered him immune from his enemies, he indulged in no vain contempt, but was willing to efface himself before his mean and little-minded opponents, for he desired no more than to take the place in the social order allotted to him, as it is to every man, however eminent. Far from thinking that the sole purpose of things is to pave the way for the superman, he felt that the strongest individuality would be nothing were it not for the people for whom it exists.

Source: Ramon Menendez Pidal, in The Cid and His Spain, translated by Harold Sunderland, John Murray, 1934,494 p.

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Critical Evaluation


Extended Historical Criticism