Phantom Time

Time is fleeting but it is also the most commonly used noun in English.

Time is something the human race has constantly got on their minds. We all struggle to have enough time to get everything we want done in a day. On occasions, we are all guilty of wasting time, wishing time away or counting down the seconds. Time can also be very arbitrary. It seems to go faster when you are having fun and seems to go indeterminably slower at 5 minutes to 5pm on a Friday…

Throughout the study of history, we have imposed fabricated names on periods of time – the Stone Age, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages – sometimes for eye-roll-inducing reasons.

There are even some fantastic time related conspiracy theories.


Today I learnt about the Phantom Time Hypothesis.

In 1990, a man named Heribert Illig published a theory that 297 years of the Middle Ages did not exist.

In his theory, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, Pope Sylvester II and Emperor Constantine VII fabricated some dates retrospectively so they ruled during the year of AD 1000 to legitimise Otto’s claim to the throne.

Apparently, the period between 614 and 911 AD did not exist. This period is either a misinterpretation or a deliberate fabrication by the aforementioned historical figures. This means Charlemagne never existed. I guess he does sound too good to be true.


The reasoning for this grand conspiracy is tenuous, to say the least.

Arguments for it stem from the lack of development of architecture, ceramics and thought in the period, the lack of archaeological evidence and because the Pope’s new Gregorian calendar did in fact purposefully make ‘time’ ten days out of sync (to reform the previous Julian Calendar with respect to equinoxes and solstices and return holidays to the correct time of year as introduced by the early church). So what was another few hundred years out?

Like any good conspiracy theory, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Modern historians (and historians at the time) did not take the theory very seriously.

The theory fails to take into account the historical events happening simultaneously in other parts of the world.

If Charlemagne was fabricated then there would be a corresponding gap/anomaly elsewhere. The Phantom Time Period matches the period of time with the life of Muhammad and Islamic Expansion, as well as the Tang Dynasty in China. These would also need to be faked or drastically misdated to make the theory hold up.

The archaeology just doesn’t agree.

If it were true, the year 2017 could actually be 1720.

Maybe it will catch on?


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