El Cid Defeats King Yusuf and His Moorish Army Outside Valencia

February 23, 2023

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid

Then the Cid assembled his chief captains and knights and people, and said: “Kinsmen and friends and vassals, today has been a good day, but tomorrow shall be a better. Be all armed and ready in the dark of the morning. Then we will to horse, and go out and smite our enemies. But let us take counsel in what manner we may go forth, so as to receive the least hurt; for they are a mighty host, and we can only defeat them by mastery in war.” When Alvar Fanez heard this, he answered: “You have achieved greater things than this. Give me three hundred horse, and we will go out when the first cock crows and put ourselves in ambush in the valley of Albuhera; and when you have opened the battle, we will come out and fall upon them on the other side, and on one side or the other we shall overcome them.” The Cid was well pleased with this advice and said he would follow it.

So he bade them feed their horses in time and sup early, and as soon as it was cock-crow they would assemble.

At cock-crow they all came together, and the Bishop who had pronounced absolution said he craved a boon from the Cid. He said, “Let me have the first wounds in the battle;” and the Cid granted him his boon. Then being all ready they went out through the gate which is called the Gate of the Snake, for the greatest force of the Moors was on that side. Alvar Fanez was already gone out with his company and had formed their ambush. The Cid had four thousand men with whom to attack fifty thousand on that day.

They went through all the narrow places and bad passes, leaving the ambush on the left, and struck to the right hand, so as to get the Moors between them and the town. And the Cid put his armies in good order, and bade Pero Bermudez carry his banner. When the Moors saw all this, they were greatly amazed, and they put on their armor in great haste and came out of their tents.

Then the Cid bade his banner move on, and the Bishop spurred forward with his company, and they fought in such a manner that the two armies were soon mingled together. Many a horse was soon running without a rider, and many a horseman was upon the ground. Terrible was the fighting and slaying; but as the Moors were so many in number they pressed hard upon the Christians and were about to overcome them. The Cid began to encouragge them, shouting for “God and St. James.”

And Alvar Fanez at this time came out of the ambush and fell upon the Moors on the side nearest the sea; and the Moors thought a great army had arrived to help the Cid, and they were dismayed and began to fly. The Cid and his men pursued them, punishing them greatly. It would be impossible to realize all the feats that were done that day, for every man did marvels. The Cid made such havoc among the Moors that the blood ran from his wrist to his elbow; and his good horse Bavieca proved to be a fine mount for him.

In the pursuit, the Cid came up with King Yucef and smote him three times; but the king escaped, for the horse of the Cid passed on so rapidly he could not check him, and when he turned, the king, being on a fleet horse, was far off. The king escaped to the Castle of Guyera, for so far did the Christians follow them, smiting and slaying without mercy. Hardly fifteen thousand of the fifty escaped. Those who were in the ships, when they saw this defeat, set sail and went to Denia.

Then the Cid and his people returned and began to plunder the tents. The spoil was so great that the men knew not what to take and what to leave of the gold and silver and horses and arms. Never had they seen such a tent as that of King Yucef, and it was filled with great riches, and there they found Alvar Salvadores, who had been made prisoner on the day before. The Cid rejoiced greatly to find him alive and well, and had his chains taken off. Then he left Alvar Fanez to look after the spoil while he went into the city. It was a wonderful sight to see the Cid then riding into Valencia; he had taken off his helmet, and his brow was full of great wrinkles, and rode upon Bavieca with his sword still in his hand.

Doña Ximena and her daughters were awaiting him, and great was their joy when they saw him coming. He stopped by them, and said: “Great honor have I won for you while you kept Valencia this day; and goodly spoil have we. Look, with this bloody sword, and a horse covered with sweat—this is the way that we conquer the Moors. Pray God that I may live yet awhile for your sakes, and you shall enter into great honor, and they shall kiss your hands.”

El Cid with Doña Jimena and his two daughters.

Then the Cid alighted, and the ladies knelt down before him and kissed his hand and wished him long life. Then they entered the palace with him and took their seats upon the benches. “Wife, Doña Ximena,” said the Cid, “these damsels who have served you so well I will give in marriage to my vassals, and to every one of them two hundred marks of silver, that it may be known in Castile what they have got for their services.” They all rose and kissed his hand; and great was the joy in the palace, and what the Cid promised was done.

The Tizona sword.

Alvar Fanez remained in the field taking account of the spoil and writing down what was found, according to their custom, so that none could be carried off unfairly. The tents and arms and precious garments were so many that they cannot be told, and the horses were beyond all reckoning; they ran about the field, and there was no one to take them, and the Moors of that land profited by that victory, for they caught many of the horses. The Cid’s own share of the horses was fifteen hundred good ones. The Cid won in this battle from King Yucef his famous sword Tizona, which name means a firebrand. The Cid gave orders that the tent of the king of Morocco, which was supported by two pillars wrought with gold, should not be touched, for he wished to send it to King Alfonso. The Bishop had his fill of battle that day, as he had desired, fighting with both hands, and no one can tell how many he slew.

King Yucef, who had taken refuge in a castle, when the pursuit was over, and he saw that he could come forth, went to Denia, and returned by ship to Morocco. There he brooded on his defeat, and how he had been conquered by so few, and he had lost so many of his people, and he fell sick and died. But before he died he begged his brother Bucar, on account of the tie between them, that he would revenge him for the dishonor he had received at the hands of the Cid before Valencia; and Bucar promised to do this, and swore upon the Koran, the sacred book of the Mahometans, that he would do this.

Calvin Dill Wilson, The Story of the Cid: For Young People (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1901), 197–202.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 867


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