My favorite conspiracy ever

I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this conspiracy theory:

You know what they say about the early Middle Ages, don’t you? If you can remember them, you weren’t really there. However, if you could recall those times, was this simply because you had been making up the entire era as a state-enrolled forger? If so, this would be explicable by the Phantom Time Hypothesis (PTH), a chronological theory almost unheard of in its radicalism, and which has been propagating steadily through German academic circles since 1998.

Picture a mediæval-style ‘Man­hattan Project’ with scriptoria instead of hangars, and Gothic minuscule instead of maths. Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (980–1002) has engaged his theo­logians under the leadership of Gerbert d’Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II) in a project that is among the most zealous and secretive of its kind since the facsimile houses of Alexandria were at their busiest. The gilding of narratives has many precedents in the writing of hist­ories, especially self-aggrandising ones. But the one described by the PTH takes this art of embellishment up a few more notches: more than two centuries worked up from scratch, then infiltrated into as many chronologies as possible. Only a Middle Gothic or a Byzantine fanatic could have taken it to such lengths. But it worked. And as the traces were destroyed, the histories reconfigured and rebound, no one was any the wiser. At least until Heribert Illig and his adherents apparently figured it out.

Illig’s theory is rooted in the introduct­ion of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. It had long been known that the old Julian calendar had a defect – the Julian year being roughly 11 minutes too long – and the new calendar was designed to correct this discrepancy, to the tune of making up for 10 days that gradually slipped during the years between AD 1 and AD 1582. But Illig alleged that the Julian calendar should have produced a discrepancy of not 10 but 13 days over the period in question, and concluded that roughly three centuries had been added to the calendar that had never existed. His response was to run with the notion of calendar “slack” and look for corroborat­ive evidence.

It’s even got a cool name: Phantom Time.