Siege of Valencia (1092 – 1094)
El Cid, one of the greatest Christian generals in the Iberian Peninsula, started life as a minor noble and rose to prominence through military feats. While serving King Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile, he fought in the Battle of Cabra in 1079. Angered by this unauthorized expedition into Granada, Alfonso sent El Cid into exile in 1080. The following year, El Cid offered his military expertise to the Moorish king of Zaragoza, Yusuf al Mu’taman ibn Hud.
In 1086, El Cid played an important role in the Almoravid invasion of the Iberian peninsula. It’s probable that he commanded a large Moorish force during the Battle of Sagrajas, where the Almoravid and Andalusian Taifas delivered a crushing defeat to the combined armies of Castile, Leon, and Aragon. Terrified of continued Moorish incursions into his territory, Alfonso recalled El Cid from exile; while it has been demonstrated that he was at Alfonso’s court in July of 1087, events after that are unclear. El Cid chose to remain at court for a short time before his return to Saragossa, content to let the Almoravid armies and Alfonso’s troops carry out their wars without him. While the opposing armies fought it out, El Cid turned his eyes to a new goal: becoming ruler of the Kingdom of Valencia.
El Cid began his campaign with the defeat and capture of Berenguer Ramon II, the ruler of nearby Barcelona in the May 1090 Battle of Tebar. He also conquered other towns near Valencia, such as Alucidia and Castejon. His influence over Valencia, then ruled by al-Qadir, gradually waxed over the next two years. However, in October of 1092, an uprising in Valencia was instigated by the city’s chief judge, Ibn Jahhaf, and the Almoravids. In response, El Cid laid siege to the city.
In an effort to prevent his army from getting close enough to effectively attack the city, the Almoravids flooded the plain around it using the irrigation system that started in the nearby hills. El Cid placed his forces’ encampment on high ground above the plain, from which he was able to continue his siege. The city began to starve, with wheat, barley, and cheese being so expensive that only the very rich could buy them. The denizens of the city were forced to live off of things like horses, dogs, cats, and mice. Eventually, the only living animals in the city were a mule and three horses. An attempt to break the siege in December of 1093 failed miserably, leaving the populace desperate. Finally, on June 15, 1094, the governor delivered the keys to the city to El Cid in his encampment. El Cid garrisoned his men in the towers of the city, and took the citadel as his residence.
By this time, El Cid had carved out his own principality along the Mediterranean coast. While he officially ruled in the name of King Alfonso, he was the de facto independent ruler of the territory. Under his reign, Christians and Muslims lived peacefully side-by-side, and both Moors and Christians worked as administrators and served in the army.