The character Ruggiero appeared in Andrea da Barberino's chivalric romance Aspramonte. In Boiardo and Ariosto's works, he is supposed to be the ancestor of Boiardo and Ariosto's patrons, the Este family of Ferrara, and he plays a major role in the two poems.
He is the son of a Christian knight (Ruggiero II of Reggio Calabria, a descendant of Astyanax, son of Hector) and a Saracen lady (Galaciella, daughter of Agolant, king of Africa). When Ruggiero's father is betrayed, his mother is set adrift in a boat and dies giving birth. Ruggerio is nursed by a lioness then brought up by the wizard Atlante in Africa (in Ariosto, Marfisa is Ruggiero's twin sister). Atlante has heard a prophecy that Ruggiero is destined to die young through treachery, but he is unable to prevent Ruggiero from joining the Saracen army in its invasion of Europe. Ruggiero falls in love with the female Christian knight Bradamante (sister to Rinaldo), but he is held captive by the enchantress Alcina on her magic island, until he is freed by the good sorceress Melissa. He rescues the princess Angelica, who has been offered as a sacrifice to a water-dwelling orc. Finally, he is baptised into Christianity, and marries Bradamante. Rodomonte appears at the wedding feast and accuses Ruggiero of betraying the Saracen cause. The two knights duel, ending in Rodomonte's death.