The Quest for El Cid

Richard A. Fletcher, Author, R. A. Fletcher, Author
Richard A. Fletcher, Author, R. A. Fletcher, Author Knopf Publishing Group $24.95 (217p) ISBN 978-0-394-57447-9
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
Known as El Cid (``the leader''), Rodrigo Diaz is Spain's first national hero, the 11th-century warrior whose conquests liberated the fatherland from the Moors. But the El Cid celebrated in epic and verse bears little relation to the real Diaz, claims British historian Fletcher ( Saint James's Catapult ). Instead of the shining Christian knight, family man and loyalist of legend, he gives us a mercenary soldier who switched sides and spent five years in the pay of a Muslim ruler, fighting Christians. Arrogant and insubordinate, this Cid was ``the scourge of his time,'' in one contemporary's words, a stern overlord of his conquered subjects, driven by an unquenchable thirst for money. Noting that there was little sense of nationhood in the Spain of the time, Fletcher overturns more myths, e.g., the so-called Arab conquest of Spain in the eighth century was carried out mainly by Berbers. Graceful prose and seamless scholarship buoy this idol-smashing portrait. Illustrated. (Apr.)
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