The Cid of History and the History of Cid

A myth for all seasons - the treatment through the centuries of Spain's medieval hero as a blend of Robin Hood and King Arthur provides revealing insights into the political needs of both his contemporary and more recent biographers.

The Cid – the individual who embodies Spain's medieval past for the casually curious just as securely as Robin Hood does England's – has provided successive generations of Spaniards with what they have needed to discover in him. More than this, he has also been permitted to appropriate the period of history through which he lived. 'The Cid's Spain' has a meaning and force that 'Robin Hood's England' lacks. For this Ramon Menéndez Pidal is principally responsible. Pidal's La España del Cid was first published in 1929. By the time its seventh and last edition appeared forty years later, in the year after the death of its author (1869-1968) the Spain of the Cid's lifetime had become The Cid's Spain and historians, critical though some of them may have been of particular features of Pidal's view of the period, had slipped into the habit of thinking and writing of it thus. Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar had upstaged his lord and king, Alfonso VI of Castile, something he had studiously refrained from doing in his own lifetime (?1043-99).

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