Phantom time hypothesis

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Otto III from the Gospels of Otto III

The phantom time hypothesis is a theory advanced by German historian and publisher Heribert Illig (born 1947) which proposes that roughly 300 years of "phantom time" were inserted into the Western calendar in the Early Middle Ages, from AD 614 to 911. According to the hypothesis, events dated to this period in Europe and neighboring regions either occurred in a different period, or did not occur at all. Some opponents have labeled it a conspiracy theory.[1]


The hypothesis suggests that the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II retrospectively inserted 300 years into the Western calendar, so that it placed them at the special year of AD 1000, and rewrote history, inventing the heroic figure of Charlemagne among other things.[2] By this means Otto III created a phantom dynasty to legitimize his imperial pretensions[3].

Illig believed that this was achieved through the alteration, misrepresentation, and forgery of documentary and physical evidence.[4]

Illig further suggests that the number 300 was not simply made up to suit Otto's needs, but rather that he appealed to the Philippian Era Calendar, which has its year zero close to the death of Alexander the Great and which was still in use in Constantinople where Otto III's mother, Theophanou, originated from. This provided some legitimacy for Otto III's claim that his reign commenced at the start of a new millenium[5].

Arguments for

The bases of Illig's hypothesis include:[6][7]

  • The scarcity of archaeological evidence that can be reliably dated to the period AD 614–911, the perceived inadequacies of radiometric and dendrochronological methods of dating this period, and the over-reliance of medieval historians on written sources.
  • The inability to reliably determine the provenance, chain of custody, and publication date of any document older than about 500 years.
  • The presence of Romanesque architecture in tenth-century Western Europe, suggesting the Roman era was not as long as conventionally thought.
  • The lack of any plagues in Europe for 700 years.
  • The relation between the Julian calendar, Gregorian calendar and the underlying astronomical solar or tropical year. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar, was long known to introduce a discrepancy from the tropical year of around one day for each century that the calendar was in use. By the time the Gregorian calendar was introduced in AD 1582, Illig alleges that the old Julian calendar should have produced a discrepancy of thirteen days between it and the real (or tropical) calendar. Instead, the astronomers and mathematicians working for Pope Gregory had found that the civil calendar needed to be adjusted by only ten days. (The Julian calendar day Thursday, 4 October 1582 was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday, 15 October 1582). From this, Illig concludes that the AD era had counted roughly three centuries which never existed, however, see Fomenko.
  • The extensive stratigraphic analyses of Gunnar Heinsohn, who claims that 700 "phantom years" are added into the AD calendar, such that 230 AD and 930 AD are the same year.
  • The astronomical, statistical and historical analyses of Anatoly Fomenko and colleagues.

Arguments against

  • Observations in ancient astronomy, including during the Tang Dynasty in China, of solar eclipses and Halley's Comet for example, are consistent with current astronomy with no "phantom time" added.[8][9] However, it must be pointed out that evidence from the Tang dynasty simply means that the traditional Chinese calendar does not contain any insertions unless events during the Tang Dynasty can be accurately correlated with events in the Western calendar that they are said to match.
  • Archaeological remains and dating methods such as dendrochronology refute, rather than support, "phantom time".[10]
  • The Gregorian reform was never purported to bring the calendar in line with the Julian calendar as it had existed at the time of its institution in 45 BC, but as it had existed in 325, the time of the Council of Nicaea, which had established a method for determining the date of Easter Sunday by fixing the Vernal Equinox on March 21 in the Julian calendar. By 1582, the astronomical equinox was occurring on March 10 in the Julian calendar, but Easter was still being calculated from a nominal equinox on March 21. In 45 BC the astronomical vernal equinox took place around March 23. Illig's "three missing centuries" thus correspond to the 369 years between the institution of the Julian calendar in 45 BC, and the fixing of the Easter Date at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.[11]
  • If Charlemagne and the Carolingian dynasty were fabricated, there would have to be a corresponding fabrication of the history of the rest of Europe, including Anglo-Saxon England, the Papacy, and the Byzantine Empire. The "phantom time" period also encompasses the life of Muhammad and the Islamic expansion into the areas of the former Roman Empire, including the conquest of Visigothic Spain. This history too would have to be forged or drastically misdated. It would also have to be reconciled with the history of the Tang Dynasty of China and its contact with Islam, such as at the Battle of Talas.[9][12]

See also


  1. Mihail Andrei (April 29, 2014). "Crazy ideas: The Phantom Time hypothesis". ZME Science. Retrieved February 16, 2017. 
  2. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz, Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist? pp 9–10.
  3. Scott, Emmet (2014). A Guide to the Phantom Dark Age. Algora Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-62894-040-4. 
  4. Fomenko, Anatoly (2007). History: Chronology 1: Second Edition. Mithec. ISBN 2-913621-07-4. 
  5. Scott, Emmet (2014). A Guide to the Phantom Dark Age. Algora Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-62894-040-4. 
  6. Illig, Heribert (2000). Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht? (ISBN 3548750648). Econ Verlag. 
  7. Illig, Heribert. Das erfundene Mittelalter (ISBN 3548364292). 
  8. Dieter Herrmann (2000), "Nochmals: Gab es eine Phantomzeit in unserer Geschichte?" (in German), Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 3: pp. 211–214 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dutch, Stephen. "Is a Chunk of History Missing?". Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  10. Fößel, Amalie (1999). "Karl der Fiktive?". Damals, Magazin für Geschichte und Kultur. No. 8. pp. 20f. 
  11. Karl Mütz: Die „Phantomzeit“ 614 bis 911 von Heribert Illig. Kalendertechnische und kalenderhistorische Einwände. In: Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte. Band 60, 2001, S. 11–23.
  12. Adams, Cecil. "Did the Middle Ages Not Really Happen?". Retrieved 9 July 2014. 



  • Illig, Heribert: Enthält das frühe Mittelalter erfundene Zeit? and subsequent discussion, in: Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften 8 (1997), pp. 481–520.
  • Schieffer, Rudolf: Ein Mittelalter ohne Karl den Großen, oder: Die Antworten sind jetzt einfach, in: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 48 (1997), pp. 611–617.
  • Matthiesen, Stephan: Erfundenes Mittelalter – fruchtlose These!, in: Skeptiker 2 (2002).

By Illig

  • Egon Friedell und Immanuel Velikovsky. Vom Weltbild zweier Außenseiter, Basel 1985.
  • Die veraltete Vorzeit, Heribert Illig, Eichborn, 1988
  • with Gunnar Heinsohn: Wann lebten die Pharaonen?, Mantis, 1990, revised 2003 ISBN 3-928852-26-4
  • Karl der Fiktive, genannt Karl der Große, 1992
  • Hat Karl der Große je gelebt? Bauten, Funde und Schriften im Widerstreit, 1994
  • Hat Karl der Große je gelebt?, Heribert Illig, Mantis, 1996
  • Das erfundene Mittelalter. Die größte Zeitfälschung der Geschichte, Heribert Illig, Econ 1996, ISBN 3-430-14953-3 (revised ed. 1998)
  • Das Friedell-Lesebuch, Heribert Illig, C.H. Beck 1998, ISBN 3-406-32415-0
  • Heribert Illig, with Franz Löhner: Der Bau der Cheopspyramide, Mantis 1998, ISBN 3-928852-17-5
  • Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht?, Heribert Illig, Ullstein 2003, ISBN 3-548-36476-4
  • Heribert Illig, with Gerhard Anwander: Bayern in der Phantomzeit. Archäologie widerlegt Urkunden des frühen Mittelalters., Mantis 2002, ISBN 3-928852-21-3

By Others

  • Emmet Scott. A Guide to the Phantom Dark Age, New York 2014.

External links

et:Heribert Illig