Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Calendar Truthers?

I can't believe that I never came across this idea sooner. The ominously named "Phantom Time Hypothesis" has been around since 1991, and yet it never once showed up on my fringe history radar. The idea is this - adjustments to our calendar during the Middle Ages resulted in the disappearance of 297 years, which means that the "real" year is 1720. That's pretty convenient for all those fundamentalists who thought the world would end in 2000 and were proved completely wrong, isn't it? I expect that we'll start hearing from those neo-Millerite idiots again soon if this idea gets enough coverage.

According to Illig’s hypothesis, Pope Sylvester II, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, and Constantine VII changed the dating system to place Otto III’s reign comfortably at the millennial year 1000, a more meaningful time than, say, 999 (although “Party like it’s 999” still holds the record for the most requested Gregorian chant in history).

Altering existing documents, creating fraudulent historical events (even people, such as the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne who, it is claimed, was simply a King Arthur-type myth), and tampering with physical evidence, this cabal inserted 297 years into our dating system. Two hundred ninety-seven years that don’t exist.

To back up his hypothesis, Illig said an inadequate system on dating medieval artifacts, and historians relying on written (and if Illig is correct, forged) documents, make the years 614 and 911 a bit dodgy. Mathematical errors between the Julian the Gregorian calendars further complicate matters, making a 297-year gap possible. Illig also claimed the fact that there was Roman architecture in 10th Century Western Europe shows the Roman Empire is more modern that what is currently thought.

Illig is not alone in this. University professor Dr Hans-Ulrich Niemitz published the paper “Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist?” in 1995 in which he claims, “NO, the early Middle Ages did not exist.” “Between Antiquity (1 AD) and the Renaissance (1500 AD) historians count approximately 300 years too many in their chronology,” Niemitz wrote. “In other words: the Roman emperor Augustus really lived 1700 years ago instead of the conventionally assumed 2000 years.”

Like Illig, Niemitz discusses the discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars to prove his point, but also brings up the fact that, per accepted history, Byzantium and the Islamic realms were warring at this time. But Niemitz asserts, “nothing can be said about this period, because no historical sources exist for the supposed reform in this period."

Just as a point, regardless of how plausible this idea might be, I do appreciate the proper use of "hypothesis" here. It drives me nuts when writers of popular articles replace it with "theory" to match the vernacular, since a "theory" is a totally different thing in the sciences.

At any rate, it's certainly not inconceivable that several powerful leaders could have gotten together in the Middle Ages and decided to change the calendar dates. But the thing is, let me just add the phrase "in Europe" to that last statement from Niemitz. Because we have all sorts of records from around the world that show those 297 years did happen, even if record-keeping in Europe during the period in question was poor. Also, the timing of eclipses and the like does not show a bizarre 297-year gap - and it would. While there are discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, there's nothing anywhere near that magnitude.

William Miller would have loved it. His 1843 doomsday prediction could still happen - you know, because according to the Phantom Time Hypothesis it still is more than 120 years away!

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