As of this writing, the year is 2020. But what if the year was ACTUALLY 1722? What if hundreds of years ago there was a conspiracy by a few European noblemen to change the modern calendar? This may sound crazy, (and, admittedly, it is a little crazy), but is it possible? Stranger things have happened. It all has to do with the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope, and (maybe) the Byzantine Empire circa AD 1000 (that’s important for later). Suffice it to say, the dark ages never happened.
The Phantom Time Hypothesis: The Dark Ages Never Happened
This theory was first postulated by the German historian and author Heribert Illig in 1991, where he states that this originated as a conspiracy between Holy Roman Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II. You see, at this point in history, Europe was decidedly Christian, even across empire lines.
Also during this period, the AD calendar was standard. Most people assume “AD” means “After Death”, referring to the death of Jesus, but it actually is the Latin “anno Domini”, meaning “Year of the Lord”.
The strong roots of Christianity in Europe, combined with a vain desire to appear anointed by God himself, drove these two men (Otto III and Sylvester II) to fabricate the nearly three-hundred years from AD 614 – 911 in order to make it appear that they were actually ruling in the year 1000. Why, you ask? Because God would only let his chosen people rule in the thousandth year of his calendar, obviously. Makes sense to me.
The Dark Ages And Emperor Charlemagne Never Happened
But what about all the documents from then? How can they say the dark ages never happened if we have a bunch of archaeological stuff from that time period? There are entire history departments dedicated to these years! Well, as it turns out, there really isn’t too much historical evidence directly from that time period.
In fact, it’s rather bare. Most of our knowledge of this time period comes from historians who themselves did not live through it, some writing hundreds of years later. Add to that the fantastical accounts that do survive and they seem made-up.
Indeed, part of Illig’s claim is that the entire existence of Emperor Charlemagne, one of Europe’s most significant rulers during the middle ages, never existed at all. He believes that Charlemagne’s practically magical ability to rule and unify his empire was indeed possible only by virtue of the fact that it was fictional. Illig is saying that Charlemagne, like the English King Arthur, was a folk hero designed by Otto III and Sylvester II to help fill in the gaps in the phantom time they “created”.
It makes sense, in a dastardly kind of way. The masses, throughout time (though it’s apparent today), have longed for the golden age that they perceived existed in the not-so-distant past. More often than not, this golden age either did not exist or was not as great as believed.
In the case of the citizens of the Holy Roman Empire, this ethereal time was the reign of Charlemagne, whom their then-ruler Otto III fabricated and then idolatrized. One can imagine Otto III, standing beside Pope Sylvester II, saying to his people: “Let me, chosen to rule in year 1000 of our Lord, bring you the prosperity you once had under the great Charlemagne.”
Both of these men, according to modern calendars, ruled during the year AD 1000, but if we accept Illig’s phantom time hypothesis that the dark ages never happened, then that means they ACTUALLY ruled in the year AD 703.
Not as cool as the year 1000, you have to admit. I mean, it has one whole extra digit and everything.
It should be said that Illig’s claims are not accepted by mainstream historians, but it is an interesting hypothesis. Is it the case that they don’t want to admit that they, too, have been hoodwinked by Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II from beyond the grave? Perhaps. Just remember, next time you need to date a letter, just subtract 297 years from the current year.