Phantom time hypothesis

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The phantom time hypothesis is a historical conspiracy theory asserted by Heribert Illig (born 1947).

First published in 1991, the hypothesis proposes a conspiracy by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, Pope Sylvester II, and possibly the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, to fabricate the Anno Domini dating system retrospectively, so that it placed them at the special year of AD 1000, and to rewrite history.[1] Illig believed that this was achieved through the alteration, misrepresentation, and forgery of documentary and physical evidence.[2] According to this scenario, the entire Carolingian period, including the figure of Charlemagne, would be a fabrication, with a "phantom time" of close to three centuries (AD 614 to 911) added to the Early Middle Ages.

The proposal has found no favour among mainstream medievalists.

Heribert Illig[edit]

Illig was born in 1947 in Vohenstrauß, Bavaria. He was active in an association dedicated to Immanuel Velikovsky, catastrophism and historical revisionism, Gesellschaft zur Rekonstruktion der Menschheits- und Naturgeschichte. From 1989 to 1994 he acted as editor of the journal Vorzeit-Frühzeit-Gegenwart. Since 1995, he has worked as a publisher and author under his own publishing company, Mantis-Verlag, and publishing his own journal, Zeitensprünge. Outside of his publications related to revised chronology, he has edited the works of Egon Friedell.

Before focusing on the early medieval period, Illig published various proposals for revised chronologies of prehistory and of Ancient Egypt. His proposals received prominent coverage in German popular media in the 1990s. His 1996 Das erfundene Mittelalter also received scholarly recensions, but was universally rejected as fundamentally flawed by historians.[3] In 1997, the journal Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften offered a platform for critical discussion to Illig's proposal, with a number of historians commenting on its various aspects.[4] After 1997, there has been little scholarly reception of Illig's ideas, although they continued to be discussed as pseudohistory in German popular media.[5] Illig continued to publish on the "phantom time hypothesis" until at least 2013. Also in 2013, he published on an unrelated topic of art history, on German Renaissance master Anton Pilgram, but again proposing revisions to conventional chronology, and arguing for the abolition of the art historical category of Mannerism.[6]


The bases of Illig's hypothesis include:[7][8]

  • 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 presence of Romanesque architecture in tenth-century Western Europe, suggesting the Roman era was not as long ago as conventionally thought.
  • 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 XIII 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.


  • The most difficult challenge to the theory is through observations in ancient astronomy, especially those of solar eclipses cited by European sources prior to 600 AD (when phantom time would have distorted the chronology). Besides several others that are perhaps too vague to disprove the phantom time hypothesis, two in particular are dated with enough precision to disprove the hypothesis with a high degree of certainty. One reported by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History: "The eclipse of the Sunne, which chanced before the Kalends of Maij, when as Vipsanus and Fonteius were Consuls, (and that was not many yeeres past) was seene in Campania betweene the 7 and 8 houres of the day"[9] in 59 AD; and one as reported in Photius' epitome of Philosturgius' lost history: "When Theodosius had entered the years of boyhood, on the 19th of July, a little after noon-day, the sun was so completely eclipsed that the stars appeared"[10] in 418 AD. Both of these dates and times have confirmed eclipses. In addition, observations during the Tang Dynasty in China, and Halley's Comet, for example, are consistent with current astronomy with no "phantom time" added.[11][12]
  • Archaeological remains and dating methods such as dendrochronology refute, rather than support, "phantom time".[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.[12][15]


Publications 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hans-Ulrich Niemitz, Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist? pp 9–10.
  2. ^ Fomenko, Anatoly (2007). History: Chronology 1: Second Edition. Mithec. ISBN 2-913621-07-4. 
  3. ^ Johannes Fried: Wissenschaft und Phantasie. Das Beispiel der Geschichte, in: Historische Zeitschrift Band 263,2/1996, 291–316. Matthias Grässlin, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 1. Oktober 1996
  4. ^ EuS 1997 Heft 4. Theo Kölzer (Bonn University) refused to contribute, and the journal printed his letter of refusal instead in which Kölzer criticizes the journal for lending credibility to Illig's "abstruse" idea. A favourable review was published by sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn, which later led to a collaboration between Illig and Heinsohn until 2011, when Heinsohn left the board of editors of Illig's journal and published his rejection of Illig's core idea that the figure of Charlemagne is a high medieval fiction.
  5. ^ Michael Borgolte. In: Der Tagesspiegel vom 29. Juni 1999. Stephan Matthiesen: Erfundenes Mittelalter – fruchtlose These!, in: Skeptiker 2/2001
  6. ^ Meister Anton, gen. Pilgram, oder Abschied vom Manierismus (2013).
  7. ^ Illig, Heribert (2000). Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht? (ISBN 3-548-75064-8). Econ Verlag. 
  8. ^ Illig, Heribert. Das erfundene Mittelalter (ISBN 3-548-36429-2). 
  9. ^ Pliny the Elder: Natural History (Book II), accessed 4 May 2016
  10. ^ Photius: Epitome of the Church History of Philosturgius, accessed 4 May 2016
  11. ^ Dieter Herrmann (2000), "Nochmals: Gab es eine Phantomzeit in unserer Geschichte?", Beiträge zur Astronomiegeschichte 3 (in German), pp. 211–214 
  12. ^ a b Dutch, Stephen. "Is a Chunk of History Missing?". Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Fößel, Amalie (1999). "Karl der Fiktive?". Damals, Magazin für Geschichte und Kultur. No. 8. pp. 20f. 
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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).

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