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The ‘Phantom Time Hypothesis’ theory: did a bunch of entitled white guys forge the entire middle ages?

The idea that time travel will ever become a reality tends to be frowned upon – but the ‘phantom time hypothesis’ is a wacky conspiracy that tackles time travel from a different angle. In a nutshell, this conspiracy theory claims that the entirety of European history from AD 614-911 was completely fabricated by the Roman Catholic Church. These claims have been widely refuted by historians, but we’ll ignore that for now.


This conspiracy first gained popularity in the early 1990s – or the 1690s, if we’re going to take this theory as the truth. A German historian, Heribert Illig, is credited with popularising the theory, although he didn’t come up with it alone. The story goes that Otto II (a Roman Emperor), Byzantium Emperor Constantine VII and Pope Sylvester II pulled a sneaky time jump to push the calendar forward overnight – three hundred years forward, to be exact.


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Why would anyone bother pulling off something like this, you may ask? Well, both Sylvester and Otto desperately wanted to celebrate the “landmark year” of 1000AD, but would die some several hundred years before that year rose. And so, they did what any rational, privileged, entitled white man would do in that situation: they changed the world to suit them. What was that about Donald Trump and time travel? Other versions of the phantom time theory cite a genuine misunderstanding of documents or mistake as the reason for the three-century-time leap. That’s one big arse mistake.


If this theory were to be found true, it would kind of make sense – with women’s rights seemingly existing 300 years in the past, the idea that we live in the 1700s is hardly a stretch of our imaginations.


There’s some evidence to support the theory. Roman architecture was discovered in Europe in the tenth century, which suggests that the Roman era may be more recent history than we are told. Evidence actually traced back to the Roman era (AD 614-911) is pretty scarce. The methods of dating this architecture have also been critiqued. The theory can also be traced back to ‘1700’ (or 1400, depending on your stance on this theory), when some Frenchmen alleged that art from ancient European nation states were forgeries.  


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This would hardly be the first ‘blind spot’ in history to be manufactured – in fact, if this conspiracy is the truth, it could very well be an early account of ‘fake news’ (Donald Trump throws down his Cheetos and stomps on them).


Because time is tied so tightly to the structure society as we know it, we aren’t capable of looking at this theory objectively. Instead, all we can be sure of is that we’ll never have proof that the phantom time hypothesis is not real – because, of course, any evidence that suggests the theory is wrong could have been designed by mankind to hide the fact that some 300 years of ‘time’ were manufactured by some impatient white guys with an agenda.


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