Building Something New on Top of the Old

A few years back, during the Spring of 2010, I visited the island of Rhodes, located in the Eastern Aegean Sea off of the coast of Turkey. Rhodes is an interesting crossroads between cultures and geography, as the island has been used throughout history as a major port between Europe and Asia Minor. One of the oldest settlements in Rhodes is the town of Lindos located in the Southeastern portion of the island.

Lindos has a prominent acropolis and harbor around which the old city was built:

The acropolis of Lindos

The acropolis at Lindos

The harbor at Lindos

The harbor at Lindos

The word “acropolis” comes from the Greek ἄκρος (“highest/top”) and πόλις (“city”), which literally translates to “the top of the city.” Ancient acropoloi were highly important to the ancient Greek city-state, as they served as the center of the political, military, and religious activities of the community. This is not hard to see why, as the acropolis was the highest, most defensible, and greatest lookout point of the city. Accordingly, many of the finest buildings in a Greek city-state were located atop of the central acropolis of the town.

The same is true of Lindos. Many of the most ancient and best preserved buildings of the city are located on top of its acropolis. What is further interesting about the acropolis at Lindos is that we also have many different layers of expansion where new edifices were built atop the old. As history progressed, Rhodes came under the dominion of various empires and religions. Despite these outside changes, the acropolis at Lindos remained the central focus of the city, as the acropolis was the natural center of the city’s activity. Accordingly, the acropolis at Lindos has examples of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine architecture, all built alongside and on top of each other.

Temple of Athena Lindia

The Temple of Athena Lindia

The Greek Orthodox Church of St. John

The Greek Orthodox Church of St. John

Among these structures are a number of well preserved religious sites. For example, Lindos has a Doric temple dedicated to Athena Lindia, which was constructed very early in the island’s history. Later, when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity and subsequently the Byzantine Empire came into possession of Rhodes, the acropolis at Lindos was converted to now serving the Christian purposes of the new ruling empire.

One of the changes to the acropolis was the construction of a Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to St. John, which was built alongside of the previous Pagan religious sites. Although the main religion had changed on Rhodes, the importance of the acropolis remained the same and served the same central role for the community. Rather than fully abandon the Pagan past, Christianity was instead built on top of it, where old sites that had served previous religions were not fully destroyed or abandoned, but were instead adapted and incorporated into the new religious system.

So how does all of this relate to Secular Humanism? As discussed in the previous post, Secular Humanism is a philosophy that is not dedicated to fully obliterating the memory of religion, but rather to building a new system on top of it.

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