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w_ockham in medievalstudies

The Phantom Time Hypothesis

I'm writing a paper on the "Phantom Time Hypothesis".  You can Google this, or refer to this paper by Niemitz http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/volatile/Niemitz-1997.pdf, or this by Illig http://www.bearfabrique.org/Catastrophism/illig_paper.htm, or this article about it on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A84012040. Briefly, the hypothesis is that in order to reconcile the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendar, we have to remove 300 years from the 'official' calendar.  Illig reckons these years would be 614-911.  Thus many popes, emperors, wars &c never existed.  The hypothesis explains this as a massive conspiracy.  The entire history of that period was invented by Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, whose conventional dates are given as 980 –1002, but who really lived 300 years before that, from about 680 to 702.  However, in connivance with Pope Sylvester II, he decided to convince everybody they were living at the end of the First Millennium, because it was a wonderful opportunity for positive PR, and Otto liked the idea of reigning in the Year 1000. “It was such a nice, round number”.  He changed the dates, and got scribes to write an extra 300 years of history.   

I have my own ideas about this but welcome the thoughts of people here.  In particular, I am interested in how ordinary people in the early middle ages actually recorded years.  Did they really rely on priests to tell them the time (it is essential to the hypothesis that the whole Church was involved in the conspiracy)?  Or did they record dates and years in their own way?  How often did official documents record the exact date?

My only knowledge of reference to dates is Bede, who includes a whole chronology of the world in his book on the English Church and people.  (However, Bede was living right in the middle of the 'phantom period' so perhaps his works were a later forgery).

Thanks

Edward

Comments

Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessita.

With a user name like w_ockham I should hope that you have only one hypothesis: this is a theory that has multiplied entities without necessity.
Very well said.
sine necessitate

Otherwise +1 :))

PS. Topic starter, I suggest you add this theory to the ones you've listed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Chronology_%28Fomenko%29.
You'll want to look at chronicles. In particular, there are several Anglo-Saxon chronicles that I would consult. This is a good start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_Chronicle

In addition, I would listen to the others on here. It's not a creditable hypothesis because it assumes too much. In addition, to argue that the church could keep a widespread conspiracy assumes that the church was more unified than it was, and that the pope had more power than he did. It also ignores other monarchies, not to mention other dating systems, like that of the Abbasids.
What taliesinmerlin said, about the papacy and other dating systems, and also, archaeology. Pretty sure there are dendrochronological sequences out there that prove those 300 years existed.
Thanks for these comments. In reply to the 'sufficient reason' objection (why not 1000 years, why not all history) I have ignored the more extreme versions because they are inherently implausible, whereas the 300 year version is grounded in a sufficient reason (the apparent discrepancy between Julian and Gregorian calendar system, of about three days, and is superficially plausible (we have fewer written record for the 'dark age' period than for the classical or post dark-age period.

My specific question was whether ordinary people in the early middle ages used a dating system in the way we do - as opposed to just the learned.

Otherwise, the main objections I can see are:

1. The initial motive for the hypothesis depends on whether the Romans dated the equinox on 24th March or 21st. Even if they did date it on the 21st (and I have not seen any evidence that they did), the inconsistency could easily be explained by (1) bad calendars - there were a few known mistakes in the Julian calendar (2) poor calculation of the equinox - no accurate method was found until Ptolemy, whose calculation is consistent with standard chronology.

2. The assumption that there are few documents dating from that period is false. There are many, particularly from the Carolingian period. And of course there is Bede, and the Anglo-Saxon chronicle.

3. There were separate dating systems in a number of Western and Middle-Eastern cultures, e.g. the Alexandrian, the Byzantine, the Jewish, the Arabic. To suppose a conspiracy spanning different administrations and churches is less plausible than any alternative.

4. There were many original works produced during that period (e.g. Bede, Eriugena). It is much more difficult to forge an original work than an ordinary one.

5. There were many copies of the same works produced by different hands and dispersed in widely different locations. To forge all of these down to the handwriting, in a way that has so far escaped modern paleographic science would be a tremendous task. This would have to include forging the copyist's errors in a way that made them look like genuine errors, and dispersing the families of documents in a geographically realistic way.

6. A large scale forgery would be massively expensive - each manuscript copied could be up to a year's work, and would have to encompass many thousands of MS. Billions of pounds in today's terms.

Using Hume's principle (rather than Ockham's), namely that of two explanations choose the least difficult and least implausible, we should conclude that the Romans miscalculated the equinox date, and the Ptolemy, and subsequent astronomers, calculated it correctly.

But I am still interested in whether ordinary people used calendars.
The added years have interested me for years (ouch). Since I stumbled on Quedlenburg where Heinrich Himmler for 5 years did a yearly death connection ritual to his former self as the King who's relative changed the dates. He also had this thing about a 1,000 year Reich.

I see the 296 year addition as the most likely explanation of why so very little has been found that relates to the missing years that can be accurately dated. Most dates being cross referenced to other dates, for example pottery to tree rings. So errors just stay in the system ... and no one wants to scream, "I've been doing this pottery dating work for years and we have all been fiddled the books to agree with the professor."

As to the calender use. It wasn't even really considered. The seasons were judged by the star signs. Kings and others gave year placement. Place placement was far more important.

Interestingly the main calenders (kept by strange little men in turrets) of the time were 'averaged' out in about the year 1,000. The Jewish calender, the Roman calender (kept with/by successions) the eastern calender etc.

By far the best way to work out the real dates is the 532 volcanic explosion that brought on the "dark ages". Using this as a datum line makes for facinating insights. This gives a date that for the collapse of the Roman Empire as probably our 253 - when the Romans were defeated by the German tribes in Germany - their superb transport system collapsed with a lack of sun for feed. They never got the act together after this. (Worth looking David Key's book on Catrstrope)

Also of interest are sub sets like Emperor Charmine - the king who never was - who did so much in so short a time that he must have had a Lear jet to fly over the dense forests of germany to his numerous exploits. There is much that is contradictory in his personal history. And need I even mention King Arthur ?

Good that you are writing about this.
Yet another argument against the hypothesis: 300 years of linguistic change are supposed to have happened out of nowhere ...?

But as for your question:

How often did official documents record the exact date?

Dates were definitely recorded in documents, often in different ways combined. While the Anno-Domini-dating we are used to nowadays gained popularity throughout Europe at slightly different times (but by the time of the Carolingians, it was already widespread), there were other dating systems in use: Often, the year of a king's rule was mentioned, or the cycle of indiction, and the days of Saints or other religious holidays were used as fixed points to mark the exact day.

Thanks.

>>Often, the year of a king's rule was mentioned

This would support the hypothesis. If public awareness of a year was only of the number of years of a king or emperor's rule, you could invent the calendar by inventing previous rulers.

>>300 years of linguistic change are supposed to have happened out of nowhere

What was the linguistic change? What is the evidence for it, given that we have no phonographic records, only written ones?
Because even the written language changed considerably. Compare Anglo-Saxon written in the year 1000 with Middle English written in 1300-completely different vocabulary and several new grammatical constructs.
In addition to that, take the name material we have. For example, Clovis and Louis the Pious actually bear the same name, but at noticeably different stages of historical language development. You have the first latinized as "Chlodovechus" (and can surmise that he would have called himself something akin to "Chlodwech", usually given als "Chlodwig" in modern German), while Louis would be latinized as "Ludovicus" and would probably have referred to himself as something like "(H)Ludvig", very close already to the modern German name "Ludwig".

If 300 years were suddenly missing, you would have to explain why every European language suddenly evolved in leaps and bounds instead of changing gradually (and a lot is happening precisely in that time period, not only in the Germanic languages).
I would be very impressed indeed if a group of conspirators did not only forge documents and timelines, but also managed to come up with convincing literary texts illustrating a believable sort of language change in the course of three imaginary centuries, and managed to convince everyone to use the wholly imaginary end point of that forced evolution as a new language from now on (and in several different languages, at that). IMHO, such a thing would be next to impossible even in a modern totalitarian system, and it could never have worked in the 7th century.

If public awareness of a year was only of the number of years of a king or emperor's rule, you could invent the calendar by inventing previous rulers.

That logic is a bit faulty. As I tried to explain above, different styles of counting were often combined in one and the same document, so the years of a king were definitely not the only way of marking dates.
Nobody has yet mentioned archaeology. For this to work you'd have to hypothesise that the Emperor and the Church didn't merely invent and chronicle a vast forged history, but three centuries of archaeology as well. Here are two random examples of what that would have entailed:

- the designing of currencies for almost every ruler in Europe, including multiple mints for each one; the production of huge quantities of silver coinage; distressing the coins to simulate wear; depositing them singly and in groups in hoards, graves, shipwrecks, privies, middens, fields and streets by the million.

- the invention of the entire Viking culture, the development of its art styles, the manufacture of huge quantities of artefacts and their deposition across the world from Constantinople to the east coast of North America.
Thanks for the point about archaeology, which I know nothing about. Both Illig and Niemitz base their argument on the absence of buildings from the intervening period. Coins are a different matter. Any sources about these would be appreciated.

PS I found this http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo-Saxon_Chronicle_-_C_-_871.jpg which has a nice date dccclxxi on it. I suppose they could argue that it was forged (it is an 11th c. copy. But the Worcester version dates from 892. Unfortunately I couldn't find on online image for the Worcester. I would love to see this.
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