It's All about the Benjamins: The Cid and His Quest for His Enemies' Riches

Throughout the course of The Poem of the Cid, the title character faces attacks from several directions. Most of the time his enemies are Moors, which is not surprising since the poem is set in an era when Christian Spain was trying to regain its territories from the Muslims. Yet, half of the time, his enemies are Spanish Christians like him. The reasons for the various parties’ attacks on the Cid differ: at times they pursue the Cid for vengeance; other times they do so for jealousy of his wealth and power. Although the Cid’s enemies all seek to vanquish him for different reasons, what remains a constant for these conflicts is that the Cid Compeador views them as opportunities to profit monetarily from defeating his enemies, becoming cocky from his success in the process.

The conflict that sets this standard is Cid’s confrontation with the Count of Barcelona. It may seem counterintuitive that a fellow Christian in the Count of Barcelona would threaten to attack the Cid, being that they are of the same religion in a Spain fractured by Moorish occupation. One might think that it would be to the Spaniards’ advantage to forget their petty quarrels in order to regain their national unity. Nevertheless, the Count’s desire for vengeance surpasses his allegiance to other Christians.

He explicitly makes his reasoning known: “In my own palace [the Cid] gave me great offense by striking my nephew and never giving satisfaction for it. Now he is ravaging the lands under my protection (p.73).” Thus, the Cid committed an act of violence against a relative of the Count’s and did not apologize, which is inexcusable in the Count’s mind. He claims that he has been reasonable: “I never challenged him nor showed enmity towards him in return (p. 73).” The Count views himself as righteous, saying that he did not take vengeance against the Cid for his actions in the palace, which was generous of him. He suggests that he was lenient enough with the Cid at first, but that the Cid’s ravaging of Count Ramón’s protected lands crossed the line between offensive and utterly inexcusable. The count feels that he must punish the Cid for overstepping his bounds.

Also noteworthy is that the narrator does not list the people to whom the Count gripes. To illustrate the scene of the Count complaining, the narrator merely writes to confirm that the Count is in the wrong: “The Count was a hasty and foolish man and spoke without due reflection (p. 73).” Before the Count even begins his tirade, readers know to disregard it since the omniscient narrator treats the Count’s speech as being meritless, being both hasty and foolish. The fact that his words are spoken hastily and to a nonspecific audience gives readers the idea that perhaps he is addressing anyone in his palace willing to listen. Subsequently, the effect of his complaint is that “Great numbers of Moors and Christians flocked in haste to join his forces (p. 73).” This sentence proves that the Count despises the Cid so much that he crosses religious borders: he enlists Moors and Christians indiscriminately. His main concern is defeating the Cid, and he will forego religious prejudices to complete his goal.

Thus, the Cid’s first obstacle, Count Ramón, is driven primarily by desire for vengeance. The Cid, however, makes short work of him. The narrator writes that shortly after the victory, “[The Cid] then left his tent, in great humor at the amount of the booty (p. 77).” This sentence begins a few patterns to be repeated later in the text. For one, this is the Cid’s first military victory, and already he has gained enough riches from the battle to put him in a good mood. Collecting vast amounts of booty through excellence in war, however, is not the only pattern that will repeat itself. Readers also see from the phrase “great humor” that the Cid delights in his achievement. Instead of remaining modest, he establishes himself as a self-celebratory commander, a showboat.

Unlike Count Ramón, a Christian whose motive was vengeance, the Moorish Valencian soldiers, whom the Cid faces next, attack for a different reason: “Within the walls of Valencia great fear spread. The people of Valencia had grown anxious and distressed. They resolved to go and lay siege to the Cid (p. 81).” Again, readers of The Poem of the Cid must take the all-knowing narrator’s words for truth when the he explicitly states that the Valencians exhibited “great fear” and were “anxious and distressed.” These words show that the Moors of Valencia felt intimidated by the Cid’s presence in their land. Already, Ruy Díaz has gained a powerful reputation that he is the object of nightmares. While it is true that the Moors of Valencia decide to besiege him order to halt his progress into Muslim lands, they are also acting on their primal instincts to attack the leader whom they fear as a threat. Interestingly enough, the narrator never mentions religion as a motive for the Valencians’ siege on the Christians. Just as the Count of Barcelona desired vengeance so much that he would dare to fight a fellow Christian, the Valencians’ desire to destroy the man they fear so much that their differences in religion become a mere secondary reason to attack.

Again, the Cid fells his enemies and gains wealth: “The Cid captured immense booty, and when they returned after stripping the battlefield they took Cebolla and all the land beyond it, and entered Murviedro laden with the spoils (p. 83).” The Spanish soldiers’ stripping of the battlefield shows the Cid’s high regard for riches. He does not want to let a great opportunity to profit from war go to waste, so he sends men out after the battle to salvage any goods with monetary value. What is the emotional result of this victory, one might ask? The answer to that lies in a single sentence: “Great joy spread through the place (p. 83).” The pattern repeats: the Cid wins in battle, and instead of feeling solemn after a day of warfare or observing a moment of silence for the dead, he is immediately overcome with happiness. He even sends his men out to attack Muslim coastal settlements that very night, a practice akin to running a victory lap. Thus, through the battle with the Valencians, the Cid has reestablished himself as both a shrewd profiteer concerned with the acquisition of funds and a cocksure military commander unafraid to flaunt his skill.

By the time the Moorish king decides to act on his rage caused by the Cid’s invasion of Muslim lands, Ruy Díaz has become bold enough to say: “Thanks be to our Father in Heaven! . . . A piece of good fortune has come from beyond the sea (p. 109).” This equation of men to fortune is almost comical in its cockiness. The Cid no longer views his opponents as competition but as the fortune he will gain by defeating them. When the Cid sees King Yusuf’s Moroccans charge toward the Spaniards, he perceives the Moors not as warriors but as dollar signs, so to speak.

The Infantes of Carrión become another intrareligious set of enemies. They betray a fellow Christian in the Cid with greed as their motive: “‘We shall carry off our great wealth and we shall show our contempt for the daughters of the Cid! With these great possessions we shall be rich for life (p. 157).’” The brothers’ plan to abandon the Cid’s daughters and to keep the Cid’s dowry illustrates their greedy love of money. They do not care about the women they pledged to love and honor. They would rather show contempt for the Cid’s daughters but retain the great possessions the Cid gave them because the wealth will guarantee them lifelong affluence and luxury.

Although justice for the near-rape of his daughters is definitely an important part of the trial against the Infantes, one of the first orders of business for the Cid is the return of the riches he gifted the Infantes: “When they took my daughters away from Valencia, I gave them three thousand marks in gold and silver. . . Let them give me back my money as they have ceased to be my sons-in-law (p. 189).” The Cid makes sure to state the exact amount of money they owe him. This illustrates the importance of gaining a maximal amount of money from his enemies which he showed earlier in having his men search the battlefield for valuables. This forces the Infantes to borrow money from several sources in the court to satisfy the Cid’s demands. After they give the Cid property that adds up to three thousand marks, the narrator does not write that the Cid then flaunts his success in court. Instead, the narrator trumpets the Cid’s success for him: “The tables were certainly turned against [the Infantes] that day (p. 191).” This sentence is redundant; anyone who reads tirada 137 understands that the Cid ended up regaining his money. Thus, the sentence serves as a kind of rhetorical understatement. Of course the tables were turned against the Infantes, but because the narrator chooses to include this sentence, the Cid’s dominance over the Infantes heightens. The narrator proclaims the Cid’s greatness without Díaz himself having to make any cocky statement.

In each case described above, any alliances or oppositions that should exist due to religion, either Christian or Islamic, are cast aside for more important reasons. For the Count of Barcelona, it is revenge for wronging his relative in court and parading through the Count’s territory as if it were his own; for the Valencians, it is fear of a superior military leader rising in power and fame; for King Yusuf, it is outrage that the Cid had retaken such a significant amount of Moorish territory and booty; and for the Infantes of Carrión, it is greed for the wealth the Cid endowed upon them as a wedding gift.

Yet the result always remains the same: the Cid defeats his enemies and merrily celebrates his acquisition of wealth. The Cid is so mighty that he can put down and extract booty any enemy who opposes him for any reason. Not only can he drive away Muslims from their Spanish territories, which will ultimately help the Spanish complete the Reconquista, but he can also repel forces from within Christianity attempting to derail his success, all while gaining enough riches to allot generous portions to each member of his army. What this repetition of obtaining booty through war and court trials signals to readers is that the Cid views every conflict with an adversary as just another chance to turn a profit. Nothing can stop the Cid in his quest for personal financial gain. On the contrary, each action taken against him only benefits his wallet in the end.