Earlier, the Almoravids, a North African group committed to jihadist
teaching and led by the emir Yusuf bin Tashfin, began pouring into Spain
to aid their Islamic counterparts, the Moors, who had suffered several
significant defeats to the Christians in recent years.
In 1086, the Muslims and Christians clashed at Sagrajas.
The Christians were annihilated; their king barely managed to escape
with a dagger stuck in his thigh. Afterwards, in a typical gesture of
Islamic supremacy, Yusuf had some 2,400 Christian heads decapitated and
assembled into a pyramid, atop which the muezzin called the faithful to
Following the disaster at Sagrajas, one by one, Muslim kingdoms that
had been liberated during the Reconquista—even a few Christian
strongholds—fell back under Islamic control.
When, however, the Muslims overran Valencia in 1093, its lord,
Roderick (or Rodrigo) Díaz of Vivar—better known to posterity as “the
Cid”—returned and laid siege to Valencia for nearly 19-months, finally
As a result, the pride and prestige of the glorious jihadist victor
of Sagrajas, who had subsequently unified virtually all of Muslim Spain
under his authority, was shaken to its core: “He has forcibly invaded my
territory and he attributes all his success to Jesus Christ!” blurted
Yusuf, who, on hearing of the fall of Valencia, “was powerfully moved to
anger and bitterness.”
He was, accordingly, “determined to recover the city at all costs,”
writes the contemporary Muslim, Ibn Bassam, before adding that “the news
of the fall of Valencia filled every Moor in Spain with grief and
humiliation.”A showdown was inevitable: “Islam and the Occident were now each
represented by an outstanding personality,” writes historian Ramón
Menéndez Pidal: “Yusuf the Saharan and the Castilian Cid stood
face-to-face in the struggle between the two civilizations.”
The emir responded by sending the supreme Almoravid general of Spain,
his nephew, Muhammad, “with an infinite number of barbarians and
Moabites [Almoravids] and Ishmaelites [Moors] drawn from all over
Hispania to besiege Valencia and to bring Roderick to him captive and in
chains,” wrote one contemporary. Reportedly consisting of some 50,000
fighters, the Almoravids dwarfed the Cid’s Valencian garrison of 4,000
men. By late 1094, “the infidel hordes” had arrived and “pitched their
tents and encamped” at Cuarte, three miles from Valencia.
The final showdown between the Cid and his African adversaries had
come and is recorded in both song and chronicle. According to the Historia Roderici.