Luis Gil Fernández, Hellenist and historian

El filólogo y traductor madrileño Luis Gil Fernández
The Madrid philologist and translator Luis Gil Fernández Fernando Alvarado (EFE)

An ancient tradition wants that classical philology, in addition to an academic discipline, is also the best mental discipline. As if the command of the Homeric dialect, the familiarity with the athematic aorist or the Greek and Latin morphology, the treatment with the iambic and trochaic meters or the paleography, sharpened the intelligence for the deepest understanding of the unequaled Greek Latin legacy, when the sun It left at the zenith.

Luis Gil Fernández (Madrid, 1927 – 2021), trained at the Central University, embodied that high tradition and stood out among the golden generation of Hellenists , children of the classical high school, which raised such science to the most demanding parameters of its cultivation in Europe. With this endeavor, they enriched libraries, created specialized magazines and associations, elaborated dictionaries, grammars and syntax, prepared critical editions, translated and commented on innumerable texts of that classical antiquity, handling with ease the vast secondary bibliography written in German, French, English and Italian.

The philologist’s work combines research and teaching. Luis Gil, as he refers to in his self-portrait, from a republican, agnostic and liberal family, former student of the Instituto Escuela, made compatible his emotional and intellectual distaste for the Franco regime with his absolute dedication to both activities in public instances: professor of Greek in Institute and University (Valladolid, Salamanca and Madrid), researcher at the CSIC: it was his way of contributing to the reconstruction of the country.

He understood the techniques of classical philology as a medium and always preferred the original to the gloss. A means of unraveling classical Greek literature, which he read in its entirety and in its originals, with a pencil in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A careful reading of the message itself. From there his works start, which sought the unexplored. Works that interest not only the student of that past: the young journalist will find in Censorship in the ancient world the precedents of a reality still alive today; The budding physician will learn in Therapeia: Folk Medicine in the Classical World the genealogy of practices such as homeopathy, exorcisms, music therapy or prophylactic fasting. Two works, yes, still unsurpassed in the universal bibliography. Whoever feels the poetic vocation or sees in poetry a form of knowledge, will feel enlightened by Of poetic inspiration and the idea of ​​beauty . Whoever attracts the world of theater, philosophy, oratory, letters, who approaches his commented translations of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Plato, Luciano or Lysias, whose neatness earned him the National Translation Prize.

But Luis Gil, lord of Greek and Latin, left Greece and Rome to venture into the archives that keep our modern history in files written in both languages. Thus, he investigated the relations of Spain with Eastern Christianity, with Georgia, with Persia, being awarded the National Prize for History.

That purpose of exhuming unpublished materials was fruitful in other works such as Social Panorama of Spanish Humanism 1500 – 1500 or the very recent From English pirate to Spanish republic: life and industries of Antonio Sherley, as he wrote almost until his death, to years.

Luis Gil spoke with the same probity in the classrooms and outside of them. Fortunately, the writings remain, but that death took the words away from us. His students attest that he was an extraordinary oral teacher, as if so much intimacy with the classical world had confirmed his intuition of the unalterable keys of life, to guide, with humor, modernity, without any pedantry, decisions of biography and profession. To that grace – charis didaskalias -, who made him the best of friends, many owe what They are: well, like he recognized himself a disciple, he leaves numerous throughout Spain.

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