As portrayed in El Cid
The Cid was widely acclaimed as the most honorable man of his time, by Christian, Moslem, and Jew alike. Yet he was able to work his will with all three groups, even to the extent of depriving those who opposed him of their possessions, their lands, their honor, and their very lives. He accomplished this very simply by one of two means.
The first method was to take these things from his enemies in a direct, quick, honorable, and legal confrontation. Having won the battle on such terms, even his enemies could not deny him his due. At the very beginning of his adult life the Cid challenged Don Gomez, the greatest knight of the King, to a duel over an insult to the Cid's father. This was legally correct according to the laws of the day. He killed Gomez in the fight. Not only did no one begrudge him that, but he married Gomez daughter, the fair Ximena. Later, he would defeat his enemies, always of superior numbers, in direct battle (albeit using brilliant tactics and strategy). The defeated, having taken the field to challenge him, could not complain - the Cid had won fair and square.
Where the first method was not available, he would remove these things from his enemies in slow layers, like peeling an onion. At each stage of the process his enemies perceived that giving him what he wanted was just according to the manner in which the Cid framed the offer. In any case it was certainly better than the alternative offered. So it was that after winning the siege of Valencia, he announced to the Moslem inhabitants that he would respect their laws, leave them their mosques, not enter their city, and even brick up the guard towers so that they would not have to bear the shame of having Christians seeing their women. They would receive back all of their farmlands outside of the city that the Christians had occupied. All the Cid asked was that they give him one fifth of their income, as was their due to their previous Moslem ruler, and let him be judge of their disputes. They were overjoyed with the mildness of these terms, and agreed.
Soon after the Cid took over the gentry of Valencia discovered that Christians had settled on their farmland and were unwilling to give it up, saying that the Cid had given it to them for their war service. The gentry went to see the Cid, but he said he was too busy to see them right away. After a week they finally received an audience. The Cid said he had forgotten about that detail, and in any case they certainly had to agree that it was not possible for the Cid to honorably break the promise to those men he had given the land. So he suggested that he let the Christians keep ownership of the land, but they would pay the gentry of Valencia one fifth of their income as a fee. The gentry had to agree that this certainly was a reasonable solution, and in any case the alternative was nothing at all. So they agreed. And oh by the way, the Cid said, it might be useful to station some of his troops within the town after all, not within the Alcazar, they would understand, but perhaps in a single building just outside...
And so it went, on and on. The Cid occupied the city; took over the Alcazar; convinced the citizens to arrest their former ruler and assist in locating that ruler's hidden treasure; imposed his own government officials; had troops occupy the entire city and Alcazar. And at each step, the citizens agreed that what he was demanding was perhaps not agreeable, but certainly just and reasonable given the circumstances. And at the end of this long process the Moslem citizens of Valencia, with only the clothes on their backs and a single mule per family "...left their city, and so great was their number, that it took two days..."
As the previous account suggests, the Cid would very carefully and legally prepare the groundwork before utterly destroying his enemies, who could at that point find no recourse. When the Infantes of Carrion debased and abandoned the Cid's daughters, he did not take his sword and ride off in vengeance. He did not lay waste to their cities, although he could have done so. Instead the petitioned the King to call a Cortes of the Spanish nobility at Toledo to hear his complaint against the Infantes. While this was being prepared, the Cid contacted all of the nobility, plied them with precious gifts, convinced them of the justness of his case.
He acted most nobly to the King himself, greeting him at Toledo with gifts, refusing to abuse his hospitality or usurp the King's status. But the Cid also arranged for a marvelous ivory throne to be placed in the hall where the Cortes would meet, in a position that would give the Cid clear preeminence over all others, but subservient to the King. In this way his status would be demonstrated to all in the room, while at the same time not usurping that of the King.
When the trial commenced, the Cid's request was very reasonable. He would want back, he said, the two fabulous swords he had given his sons-in-law as gifts. The court ruled that this was quire reasonable, and the Infantes thought they were getting off easy, if that was all the Cid wanted. So after a day of consideration, they returned the swords to the Cid.
But sorry, that's not all, the Cid continued after getting the swords back. It was only just and right that the Infantes return the fabulous dowry that the Cid had given them for his daughters. The sons protested. They had spent the treasure, they said. They would have to strip their kingdom of its assets in order to pay it back. But the Court ruled in the Cid's favor, although allowing the Infantes two weeks to get the funds together. So the Infantes hurriedly stripped their land of assets, converted them to gold, and returned the value of the dowry to the Cid.
But now, the Cid stated, he must have recompense for the shame to his family's honor the Infantes had inflicted. The Infantes protested. They were nobility, the Cid and his daughters were of a lower class, there was no dishonor. But then it was revealed that the Cid had arranged for his daughters to be wed to the sons of the Kings of Aragon and Navarre, nobility of a much higher class then the Infantes of Carrion.
The court ruled that, according to the laws of the day, there would have to be a trial by combat. God would decide who would be the winner. The Cid appointed two champions to fight for him against the Infantes in these duels. And he gave those champions the fabulous swords that had been the things he had first demanded from the Infantes. After some delay, the duels took place. The Infantes were not killed, but they both lost the duels and had to declare themselves traitors to the King. Their family had lost its honor, its possessions, and became as nothing. The Cid's revenge was complete, and all accomplished legally and without any fault being attached to him, and without any blood feud being left to threaten his descendants.
Whenever the Cid received loot or tribute or taxes, he made sure that the wealth was shared. To his enemies he made sure the legal minimum was given, so that they could not say he had taken anything from them. In taking over a Moorish town, he continued to give a tenth of receipts back to the people through the mosque in accordance with Islamic law. In taking over a Christian town, he ensured that the Church was generously rewarded. In all cases no reductions were made in the rents or taxes due to the nobility. However in every case where the previous rulers were taking more than the customary amounts, he returned that to the people, thereby obtaining their gratitude as well.
To his friends and potential allies he would give more than custom allowed, intentionally putting the recipient in an awkward position. Often they would attempt to refuse or return the excess payment. This allowed the Cid to automatically gauge each friend or ally's character and level of greed. Such information was invaluable in knowing how to deal with the man in the future. After a trial, the Cid would reward the jurors. The honourable ones would refuse the gift; the others would take it. At a wedding, the Cid would give the guests marvellous gifts.
By the end of this life, by this kind of potlatch, the Cid had vanquished his opponents in the court utterly. He had built up a reservoir of good will, loyalty, and return obligation among his friends and allies. And he had determined who was venal and not to be trusted.
A knight came to the Cid, Martin Pelaez. In the first battle that was fought, he showed cowardice and ran from the enemy. The Cid followed a careful plan to identify whether the knight could be cured of his cowardice. Finding that he could, he then developed him slowly until he became an essential assistant to him. This was not done in any heavy-handed manner, but in a subtle, slowly unfolding plan that used a combination of ego and peer pressure to gauge and mould the man:
The moral: use simple indirect tests to gauge the potential of subordinates. For those with potential, develop them slowly and indirectly using peer pressure and subtle ego-boosts.
When the Cid was exiled from Christendom, he left his beloved wife, Ximena, and his two daughters with the monks of San Esteban de Cardena. Where he had to go, she could not; what he had to do , she could be no part of.
So, for seven years, he conquered and worked as a mercenary and warrior in Moslem lands, amassing a great fortune, a greater reputation, and eventually ruling a large area. Only when he had conquered Valencia, the greatest prize in the Iberian peninsula, and pledged his allegiance to the Christian King of Castille, did he send for his wife and daughters. Once he had recovered them and settled them in Valencia, he thereafter spent every possible moment with them, ending further expansion and conquests, subordinating other duties to their welfare and happiness, save the essential work to maintain his kingdom and defend it against Moorish attacks.
The Cid, on being outcast from Christendom, desperately needed capital to finance his expansion plans in the lands of the Moors. He sent his First Knight to two Jewish money lenders of Burgos, and asked for a loan of 300 marks of gold. He offered as security two heavy chests of treasure. He told the money lenders that these chests were too heavy to be dragged around the countryside by his mobile force of knights. The only condition was that the Jews were not to open or examine the contents of the chests while he was away. The Cid already had a reputation of having acquired enormous loot on raids, and the bond of his word and his honour were unimpeachable. So the Jews agreed to the transaction and took the chests. The Cid's First Knight even made a 10% commission on the deal.
Years later, the Cid returned to the Jews and got the chests out of hock, paying them not only the 300 gold pieces due but 300 silver ones as well. But the chests had been filled with only sand and rocks. Did the Cid lie to the moneylenders? Yes, undeniably. Did the Cid cheat the moneylenders? No, so long as he was able to make good on his obligation. The difference between the Cid and a criminal: the criminal would have had no intent of returning the borrowed funds, leaving the moneylenders with trunks of rocks. The Cid had every intent of returning the money, and was utterly confident in his ability to do so. So despite lying to the moneylenders, his honour was preserved.