The world of El Cid

Chronicles of the Spanish Reconquest

The Visigothic monarchy of Spain which flourished in the seventh and eighth centuries was the most sophisticated of the misleadingly so-called barbarian successor states which replaced the Roman Empire in western Europe. It was sophisticated in its grasp of the institutional inheritance from Rome, in its nurturing of the wealth of the rich provinces of the Iberian peninsula and in its encouragement of a lively Christian literary and artistic culture. This cultural achievement was shattered and dispersed by the Islamic conquest of Spain in the early years of the eighth century. The book focuses on four of the principal narrative sources for the history of the Spanish kingdom of León-Castile during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They are Historia Silense, Chronicon Regum Legionensium by Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo, Historia Roderici and Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris. The first three chronicles focus primarily upon the activities of the kings of León-Castile as leaders of the Reconquest of Spain from the forces of Islam, and especially upon Fernando I, his son Alfonso VI and the latter's grandson Alfonso VII. The fourth chronicle is a biography of the hero Rodrigo Díaz, better remembered as El Cid, and is the main source of information about his extraordinary career as a mercenary soldier who fought for Christian and Muslim alike.

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