The assignment was to write about the Phantom Time Hypothesis. To get a nice, concise summary of the Hypothesis, we naturally turned to Wikipedantics:
For additional information, Roy cited an article at Forbes called, "Astronomy, Charlemagne and the Mystery of Phantom Time," that got him all fired up. As we know from contemporary experience, the elites and their PPMPRR are not above fabricating entire chunks of history to suit their needs, and thus this topic has some relevance to our contemporary situation."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. Illig believed that this was achieved through the alteration, misrepresentation, and forgery of documentary and physical evidence. 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."
Certainly, we know St. Jerome took vast liberties with early Christian documents and translations in order to fabricate the Latin Vulgate Bible under intense theological pressure from Pope Damasus I and political pressure from Emperor Constantine.
Damasus wanted only those texts that created an "appropriate" narrative, while Constantine wanted to be sure none of the texts would undermine the authority of the throne, and possibly enhance it (see Romans 13:1 among many others). One can almost picture poor Jerome scribbling away with these two wildly powerful men peering over his shoulders, and the imminent threat of excommunication and/or death looming with every character he wrote.
Once the Latin Vulgate Bible was approved and adopted by the Council of Nicaea in A.D.325, it became canon and a massive campaign began to destroy all competing texts. In fact, some of those destroyed texts were thought lost until the 20th century, and the discoveries at Qumran and Nag Hammadi. At this point, we have already established that the early Church and Holy Roman Emperors were not above modifying history to suit their needs.
Anyway, having established that the ancients played fast and loose with timelines and texts, more often out of ignorance and expediency, than purely malicious intent, we are prepared to examine the Phantom Time Hypothesis. It too involves the wholesale fabrication and deliberate misuse of ancient documents in order to achieve a religio-political goal: proving that Jesus was born in the Year of Our Lord (Annon Domini) 1, and that Sylvester II and Otto III were destined by God to reign at the Second Coming.
Folks in the years in which this fabrication occurred wanted to believe, based on a millennialist Biblical interpretation by Pope Sylvester II, that the Year of Our Lord 1000, was when Jesus would return in glory to claim the Earth for all time. If this is starting to sound like a Harold Camping story, you wouldn't be far off.
Sylvester, being a fair astronomer and mathematician himself, had calculated a certain celestial event that matched his interpretation of the story of the Christmas Star. He also believed that the Second Coming would occur in A.D 1000. The story goes that he wanted to be pope during that glorious event, and so had his court astronomers work out a calendar adjustment that would fit his narrative.
The only problem was that the world was still about 300 years away from A.D. 1000, and Sylvester believed he could help Jesus along by speeding up time a bit.
According to Illig's hypothesis, Sylvester made the years A.D.614 - 911 (!) disappear, so that his reign as pope would start in A.D. 999, just in time for the Second Coming. Illig proposed that Sylvester and his court fabricated 300 years of history in order to fill in the "gap" and create a narrative that led to the Second Coming, in which Christian emperors like Charlemagne and the Carolingians had created a vast empire for Jesus to rule when he got here.
Otto III bought into the scheme, since the new narrative put him in the direct lineage of Charlemagne, thus lending considerable authority to his rule. This confluence of religious and secular interests made for a potent brew of conspiracy.
This hypothesis is dismissed out of hand by most "mainstream" historians, of course. They find it rather incredible that someone could manufacture 300 years of history, complete with relics like Charlemagne's throne in Aachen and not leave a trace of the subterfuge.
It should be noted that many of those same historians think the entire narrative of the life of Jesus is fabricated in whole or in part, even though millennia of European history is founded on that story. Few dispute the experience of St. Jerome, and most agree that references to Jesus by Josephus were probably forged by Jerome to offer some "historical" proof that Jesus existed.
In any event, Illig makes a compelling case. It is worth nothing at this point that he was deeply inspired by the writings of Immanuel Velikovsky, who for those unfamiliar with Worlds In Collision (a mind-bending read), is the modern origin of historical revisionism and catastrophism. In a sense, Illig has tried to shove two thousand years of history into Velikovsky's narrative in much the same way that Sylvester supposedly did, thus reverse engineering Sylverster's narrative to now match Velikovsky's.
What makes Illig's hypothesis difficult to dismiss altogether is that history is, um, historically very malleable. It is frequently arranged and rearranged to suit the socio-political currents at any given time (c.f. Russian hackers and the Clinton narrative). This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many ancient texts have been lost forever, and most of what we know about them today comes from citations in other works, which were less than rigorous in the Middle Ages.
Add to the situation the fact that we call the period the Dark Ages precisely because there are not a lot of reliable historical artifacts and documentation. For a number of reasons, the Early Middle Ages in Europe were a period of little academic or social development, and scholarship was reduced primarily to copying older texts, rather than generating new ones. The Dark Ages are thus ripe for a little revision, and the lack of accurate history may also be due to Sylvester's mucking about.
The article that Roy (remember him?) cited makes the case that astronomical records from around the world align rather nicely both before and after the reign of Sylvester. Various eclipses and comets recorded by Islamic and Chinese observers can be used to synchronize historical timelines. When this is done, there doesn't appear to be a 300-year "gap" in European history. We should remember, though, that Sylvester II was an astronomer/astrologer and a mathematician. If he wanted to fabricate an historical narrative, he would be very aware of these things.
It is at this point that we bump our heads on some overhanging issues. The strange lingering of Romanesque architecture (another article entirely) and the paucity of date-able artifacts are certainly big issues, but a bigger one is reliance on written records of the period that have been shown repeatedly to be unreliable, especially in the Middle Ages. The fact that social, cultural and political pressure can be brought to bear on historical records is a major issue even at this very moment.
Another major issue, and one that opens the biggest door for Illig to drive his truck through, is the fact that the European calendar has been jiggered so many times. The most recent was the revision by Pope Gregory XIII, who threw out Julius Caesar's ancient calendar in favor of our current Gregorian calendar, and in so doing, literally vanished 10 days in October 1582, which were the accumulated errors in the Julian dates, according to seasonal and celestial events like equinoxes and solstices.
It is possible, given the 500 years between Sylvester II and Gregory XIII, that any left-over errors in timelines could be quietly adjusted to repair the narrative. Many smart folks have pointed out that Gregory should have disappeared 13 days, but for some reason, chose only 10 - an error that was only corrected in modern times with additional jiggering.
That one pope could make 10 days disappear by edict argues in favor of the more difficult, though not impossible labor of creating 300 years. Given that the vast majority of people at that time could not read, did not have clocks, and only knew the date if they asked the priests in their villages (calendars were occult tools for astrology), one can see that it would be fairly simple to control information.
There are a number of suspicious events and documents that seem to corroborate Illig. For instance, St. Malachy's Prophesy of the Popes fits nicely into a fabricated history, with only the need to elect popes who loosely fit the narrative in order to keep the illusion going.
There is little physical evidence for Charlemagne and the Carolingians that can be proven beyond doubt to be actual artifacts. Their authenticity is based primarily on lore and legend.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, there is enough doubt that folks with open minds can ponder the possibility that a major swath of Western history may be a complete lie.
To just put a cherry on top, it should be noted that we have no conclusive proof that a philosopher named Socrates ever lived, or that his well-established biography is anything but a complete fabrication. There is no grave, no remains and no original manuscripts of his work. Most of what we know about him is through quotes by his students, primarily Plato, who also gave us the narrative for Atlantis. Even today, virtually all of what we know about the man and his ideas is through secondary and tertiary sources, which in historical research is discounted rather severely.
One more example, just to drive the point home, is the True Cross. Many Catholic churches have a small relic in their altar stones that is nothing more than two tiny splinters of wood in the shape of a cross and sealed in a reliquary. The story goes that St. Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine) had a mystic vision (some say a dream) in which she was told the location of Jesus' cross. She made the journey to Jerusalem, "found" the location, dug a hole and...LO!...found some wood. This occurred in the mid-300s, and to this day people fervently believe that these tiny pieces of wood are parts of the True Cross, based on a rather shaky narrative, at best.
All of this gets even stranger when you start to study the theories of some of the Electric Universe researchers, like Wal Thornhill and David Talbott, who have done extensive work verifying Velikovsky's theories.
In the end, as with most mysteries, the open-minded thinker is left with a heaping plate of food for thought. Astronomical data seems rather convincing, but it is only one line of inquiry in a vast sea of ideas and possibilities. It is fun to ponder the Phantom Time Hypothesis, even if our first instinct is to dismiss it out of hand. I have often found that entertaining wild ideas sensitizes me to new evidence, pro or con, when I come across it. If nothing else, the links, books and videos given here should provide hours of provocative research for the inquisitive soul.