Phantom time hypothesis … for the glory of Russia?

I was chatting with a friend about the phantom time hypothesis last weekend, and he mentioned that this theory was popular in Russia. Apparently, the hypothesis helped maintain a sense of imperial glory among those disillusioned with Communism and the Russia of Yeltsin/Putin. Only half-remembering the conspiracy, I rewatched the Half as Interesting video on the topic.

In brief, Heribert Illig proposed in 1991 that Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, Pope Sylvester II, and Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII conspired to fabricate a few hundred years of history. This would both help legitimate Otto’s claim to the HRE and place themselves at the special year, 1000AD. Under this hypothesis, the entire history of the Carolingian period from 614-911 was fabricated out of whole cloth.

Timeline detailing the phantom time hypothesis from Hans-Ulrich Niemitz’s article “Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist.” Source: [3]

The “evidence” for this claim is that:

  1. There is scarce archeological evidence that can be reliably dated to 614-911 due to perceived inaccuracies in the radiometric and dendrochronological methods in the 1990s.
  2. Presence of Romanesque architecture in 10th century Western Europe, which naturally suggests the Roman era couldn’t have been that long ago…
    • By this same logic, the architecture of the great Dome at MIT clearly indicates the unreality of at least a millenia
  3. Something about the relationship between the Julian calendar, Gregorian calendar, and astronomical solar year.
    • Without digging into this claim too much, it is not supported by astronomical events recorded by ancient sources (e.g. solar eclipses reported by Pliny the Elder in 59 AD, Photius in 418 AD, and all observations of the Tang dynasty).
File:Great Dome, MIT - IMG 8390.JPG
Great Dome at MIT. Source:,MIT-_IMG_8390.JPG

However, there was nothing that suggests this history could glorify Russia, nor did it seem like Heribert Illig or his colleagues would have anything to gain from doing so. It turns out there was a separate, much more involved conspiracy theory promoted by Anatoly Fomenko called “New chronology.” It proposed that the events of Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and the Roman Empire actually occurred more than 1000 years later than believed. Instead, history prior to 1600 CE had been falsified by powerful interests to obscure a true history of the world centered on “the Russian horde.” Unsurprisingly, this chronology is popular in Russia. Fomenko has sold over 1 million books, and the conspiracy has “the sympathy of up to 30% of the Russian public.”

New chronology (Fomenko) - Wikipedia
“Statistical correlation” of different historical dynasties by Fomenko – a method used to develop New chronology. Source: [5]

Of course, the phantom time hypothesis and New chronology are not the only dodgy chronologies in town. For the interested there is also:

  1. Glasgow chronology
  2. Ages in Chaos and all of Immanuel Veilovsky’s work
  3. New Chronology by David Rohl (a separate conspiracy from Fomenko’s)
  4. Short chronology
  5. Middle chronology



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