Bad News, Historians! There Was No Middle Ages! At Least, Not the Cool Part

You know, there are conspiracy theories that you can kind of see how, through a combination of wishful thinking and squinting at the evidence, a person might come to believe that, say, Ron Ramsey is actually a balding Bigfoot.

Today, in fact, just a second ago, I learned about The Phantom Time Hypothesis, which states that European history from 614–911 is just made up. It didn’t happen.

Why would someone, say a couple of Popes, just make up the early Middle Ages? I don’t know. Why would Otto and Gerbert need to make up the early Middle Ages? Yes, both of their Wikipedia articles make it seem plausible that they could have been bored. I guess. I mean, if I were playing dice with the Devil and carrying on an affair with the demon Meridiana and carrying around a magic bronze head that gave me answers to life’s mysteries, I would be too busy to make up the early Middle Ages. But I am not Pope Sylvester the Second.

See, this is my first problem with this conspiracy (I mean, after the obvious problem). Okay, I might buy that Emperor Otto is a bit of a snob and, fine, he liked to shuffle body parts of various saints around Europe, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d be all “Oh, hey, sure, Pope Sylvester, I’d love to hang out with your creepy talking metal head and your demon girlfriend and make up a whole world for Tolkien to plagiarize only to have Dungeons & Dragons plagiarize it from him. Shoot, roll those Devil Dice and let’s get our quest started.”

And that seems to be what this conspiracy theory hinges on: that Otto, Mr. Good Christian, would want to play Dungeons & Dragons with a Pope just the invention of electricity away from being Slayer’s bassist.

I’m not buying it.

But boy howdy, do I love this. In fact, I think this may be my favorite conspiracy theory, ever.

Edited to add: I don’t know for a fact that Slayer’s bassist sits around making up alternative European histories in between consorting with the Devil, talking to his robotic pet head, and having an affair with a demon, but I feel like it would be unfair to assume otherwise.

21 thoughts on “Bad News, Historians! There Was No Middle Ages! At Least, Not the Cool Part

  1. I have consulted my robotic bronze head–“Is nm right?”


    Man, a robotic bronze head is indeed an awesome thing to have. I think this may be my favorite pope.

  2. “Robotic Bronze Head of Prognostication, are the comments at io9 hilarious?”


    I’ve only had this robotic prognosticating bronze head for an hour and I’m already abusing the privilege,

  3. Oh, crackerjackheart, it claims that there are no European archaeological sites that have been dated to the “missing period” (false) and that the entire corpus of documentary evidence from the “missing period” was forged (demonstrably false according to the development of various scripts around Europe). Why should the theorists care about a little thing like other continents?

  4. Is it possible that Illig’s arithmetic could eliminate the 21st Century so far? Reset; reset! Surpentine!

  5. But my favorite part of it all, where for me it gets into an endless loop of fun, is that the idea is something like: Otto III tacked a phantom 3 centuries or so onto the calendar then in use* because he wanted to reign in the year 1000, which he wanted because it would illustrate his awesome majesticness, which was awesome and majestic because he was descended from the Roman (Byzantine) Emperors, and this would show that the Empire had lasted for a thousand years. But this descent is, of course, based on a marriage that took place during the fake/missing period. So, um, it’s fake (according to the theory) and Otto wasn’t actually connected to the imperial house — so where’s his motivation? It’s all quite lovely, really.

    *The theory also ignores the little problem of the use of multiple calendars even within Europe, even among Christians. But evidently Catholic Popes can force Jews, Muslims, and Eastern Orthodox to do whatever they want.

  6. NM, of course! Sylvester had a demon girlfriend. He was buddies with the Devil. He HAD A PROGNOSTICATING METAL HEAD! He probably just whooped up a spell that caused every non-Catholic in Europe to adjust their calendars as well. The real question is, “What did Otto have on Sylvester that he could get Sylvester to do this for him?”

    Barry, I asked the prognosticating metal head if we can eliminate the 21st century and I got back “Ask again later.”

  7. B, I think you need to make great use of your new Robotic Bronze Head of Prognostication in all your future political posts. Hopefully it will give us a little more sense than the current state of politics.

  8. B, I figured it out: silvester wasn’t blackmailed, he was bribed. It’s really simple, in a completely complicated way. Silvester was a reforming pope. He promoted education, put the final touches on ending priestly marriage, started some important monastic reforms, etc. Otto III was the predecessor (and first cousin a couple of times removed) of the emperor Henry IV. (Not to be confused with various kings of various countries with the same name and number.) And Henry IV was the emperor who was completely run rings around by Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy, allowing Gregory to set up the imperial papacy of the following 500 years or so as well as complete the monastic reform program. This outcome would have been just what Silvester wanted. And, obviously, Otto knew that this was going to happen, and convinced Silvester that if they got rid of a few centuries it would happen sooner. (And it did! Only 75 years later!) It must have been irresistible for Silvester.

    OK, now that’s resolved.

  9. Ahem, that should have been “if they added on a few centuries,” of course. It’s sooo complicated.

  10. If nothing else, I’m getting the idea that the Robotic Bronze Head of Prognostication closely resembles a Magic 8 Ball. But heavier.

    And seeing how a book recently came through titled “The Early History of Tasmania” and has a starting date of 1642, it’s obvious that if it’s not known to the Powers That Be it doesn’t count.

  11. Maybe in that case the conspirators added a few thousand years in, and it really covers a longer period than you think?

  12. Almost no one teaches US survey as if North America had a history before 1492, so perhaps the spell of temporal removal operates differently on different continents.

  13. I get it now! The dude was right — sorta.

    There was some sort 5th dimensional / multiverse glitch — in the particular fifth dimensional plane in which we live the middle ages happened exactly as history, science, and the corroborating experience of the entire rest of the world tell us.

    But on a different plane / different dimension in the multiverse, things happened exactly as this guy said.

    The thing is that 5th dimensional glitch — there must be a wormhole or some sort of quantum voodoo that got our two planes of existence tangled somehow. That’s why he can see it —

    and why some 20-30% of the country really does seem to live about 300 years in the past.

  14. So the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic Caliphates are all lies? I suppose some sort of magical being just put all that false archaeological evidence there… You know, to somehow help the pope.

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