Invented Middle Ages

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The invented Middle Ages , also called phantom time theory , is a thesis according to which 300 years of the Middle Ages were invented. The year 911 is supposed to have followed the year 614 directly.

The German journalist, Germanist and publisher Heribert Illig put forward the thesis in 1991 that by removing invented years, what he believed to be a false chronology of the Middle Ages could be corrected. The engineer and technical historian Hans-Ulrich Niemitz , who followed this idea, then called the period phantom time because the Franconian Empire after Chlothar II was a product of fantasy and deception. In particular, according to this thesis, people like Charlemagne and the other Carolingians before Charles III. the simple-minded in truth either does not exist at all, or they are to be classified before 614 or after 911.

This thesis has found some interest in the wider public; to this day, its proponents keep publishing new additions and additional arguments, especially on the Internet. By contrast, historians and medievalists almost unanimously reject it as a pseudoscience , since the hypothesis is based on proven errors and methodological errors. It is sometimes referred to as a conspiracy theory.

Basics of the thesis and counter evidence

The thesis of the invented Middle Ages belongs to the complex of topics of chronological criticism and relates to calendar studies , astronomy , diplomacy , text transmission , archeology , architectural history and historical geography .

Illig assumes that there is a circular reference within the chronology of the historical sciences : Modern absolute dating such as the radiocarbon method or dendrochronology are based on the chronology assumed to be correct and should therefore not be viewed as evidence of its correctness. Rather, a new chronology would lead to a new definition of absolute dates and thus to a readjustment of these dating methods.

Calendar customer

Length of the tropical year according to different definitions

Heribert Illig assumes that the calendar reform by Pope Gregory XIII. Correction of the Julian calendar made in 1582 (mean year length = 365.25 days) of ten days was three days too short. The actual length of the year is approx. 365.2422 days. The total deviation since the Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC. BC would have added up to a total of 12.70 days (0.0078 days × 1628) by 1582. Due to the fact that these three days did not have to be corrected in 1582, Illig derived the missing three centuries , which he calculated in the Zeitensprünge edition , issue 3/1993, to be exactly 297 years and the relevant period to be September 614 to August 911 narrowed down.

Critics reply that Illig have overlooked that the date of the day and night are equally long is not known for the introduction of the Julian calendar and March 21 as the beginning of spring until the first council at Nicaea in 325, for further calculations of the Easter date was set . This year, and not the introduction of the Julian calendar, must therefore be the starting point of the chronology. Until the calendar reform in 1582, the astronomical beginning of spring had shifted from March 21st to March 11th by 9.73 days in the following 1257 years, which is why Pope Gregory XIII. decreed the calendar reform in 1582 in the relevant papal bull Inter gravissimas and moved March 11th with the ten-day correction forward to March 21st. Thus, the calendar correction by 10 days does not contradict the existing annual count.


Illig claims that original documents from the said period are very sparse and usually only speak very unspecifically about people. In addition, from the 10th century to the time of Frederick II (beginning of the 13th century), numerous documents were changed from capital letters to lowercase letters, i.e. rewritten, after which the old documents were destroyed. A falsification of around 300 years was possible.

According to the knowledge of the historical sciences, however, there are around 7,000 original documents from the period in question. For monastic literature , the 9th century was even the richest in authors and manuscripts in the entire early Middle Ages. Copying was the only way of copying texts for medieval contemporaries. A blanket devaluation of the texts of the early Middle Ages as forgeries, as can be found in Illig, is scientifically not tenable.


The third basis of the hypothesis is the critique of archeology. It is based on the claim that there are few archaeological monuments from the early Middle Ages and that these were incorrectly dated between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. Illig cited examples from Bavaria in particular.

Scientific publications, on the other hand, indicate that there are a large number of archaeological finds for the epoch in question. Some of them are open to the public in various museums. The layers from the Carolingian era can be clearly identified (e.g. in Paderborn). The results of dendrochronology also speak against Illig's theses.


Although they do not belong to the original and core elements of Illig's thesis, astronomical criticisms have meanwhile also been refuted, among other things by astronomical investigations themselves Based on “uncertain sources” for the period in question. He explains that there is evidence against his thesis in the form of astronomical observations, but refers to a quote by the astronomer Dieter B. Herrmann , which only refers to solar eclipses . The quote is, however, taken out of context, Herrmann himself protests against the use of his words by Illig.

Astronomical events of the past are difficult to clearly assign to a date in individual cases, but the consideration of many historical observations gives a consistent picture. As Dieter B. Herrmann points out, the reports by Hydatius von Aquae Flaviae about two total solar eclipses that occurred in Aquae Flaviae (now Portugal ) within 29.5 years are very accurate thanks to astronomical calculations. The same goes for a solar eclipse in AD 59 and several descriptions of Halley's Comet. They can be clearly assigned to a point in time and thus refute Illig's thesis.

Possible authors and motives

Since, according to Illig, the phantom time is a deliberate deception, the question of the authors arises. Only a small group of important and well-working rulers were able to stage a forgery campaign of this scale. Illig therefore drew the conclusion that it could only be about the Roman-German and the Byzantine Emperor and the Pope. In 2005 he proposed that the counterfeiters Otto III. , Constantine VII and New Year's Eve II . Only in the short time between 990 and 1009 did these rulers agree enough to design such a deception. Her motive was the need to live in the year 1000 herself. Otto III. I also came up with a glorious predecessor on the throne in the figure of Charlemagne.

Further theses critical of chronology

Accusations of large-scale forgery of documents in Europe have been raised again and again. In the 1920s and 1930s, Wilhelm Kammeier allegedly described large-scale forgery of documents, which he settled in the 15th century. For him, however, it is less about criticism of chronology than about criticism of ideology. However, individual statements and even references by Illig indicate that he apparently adopted them from Kammeier without this being made clear to the readers from the start.

Conspiracy theory

In public, the fictitious Middle Ages thesis has repeatedly been referred to as the conspiracy theory. The German philosopher Karl Hepfer names them as typical of the great value that conspiracy theories place on the purposeful rationality of the alleged conspirators, whereby the rationality of the purposes themselves - here the invention of 300 years of the Middle Ages - is not questioned.


  • Heribert Illig : The invented Middle Ages. The greatest time falsification in history. Ullstein, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-548-36429-2 .
  • Franz Krojer: The precision of precession. Illig's medieval phantom time from an astronomical point of view. Difference-Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-00-009853-4 .
  • Ralf Molkenthin: The Phantom Age and the Middle Ages - or: How Heribert Illig invented an invention. A Medieval explanation. In: Ralf Molkenthin, Bodo Gundelach (Ed.): De Ludo Kegelorum. (About the bowling game. Contributions to the appointment of Dieter Scheler as honorary professor). Scriptorium-Verlag, Morschen 2008, ISBN 978-3-938199-16-9 , pp. 19-35.
  • Diethard Sawicki: Lies Emperor Charlemagne? A critical look at Heribert Illig's thesis of the invented Middle Ages. In: Tillmann Bendikowski , Arnd Hoffmann, Diethard Sawicki: History lies . About lying and falsifying in dealing with the past. Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 2001, ISBN 3-89691-499-5 , pp. 75-104.
  • Rudolf Schieffer : A Middle Ages without Charlemagne, or: The answers are now simple. In: History in Science and Education 48, 1997, pp. 611–617 ( PDF ).
  • Gerard Serrade: Empty times or the abstract image of history. Logos, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-89722-016-4 .
  • Amalie Fößel : "Charlemagne, called Charlemagne". To the discussion about the elimination of the years 614 to 911 from history. In: The Middle Ages. Perspectives of Medieval Research. Journal of the Medievalist Association , Vol. 4, 1999, pp. 65–74.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Jean Meeus: Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon and Planets. Willmann-Bell, Richmond 1995, ISBN 0-943396-45-X , p. 140: March equinox on March 10, 1582, 23:57:54 terrestrial time , i.e. in the area of ​​today's Central European time zone and east of it on March 11. March.
  2. Karl Mütz: The "Phantom Time" 614 to 911 by Heribert Illig. Calendar technical and calendar historical objections. In: Journal for Württemberg State History . Volume 60, 2001, pp. 11-23.
  3. ^ Arno Borst: The Carolingian calendar reform. Hanover 1998, p. 15.
  4. Heribert Illig: Who turned the clock? How 300 years of the Middle Ages were invented. Munich 2001, p. 234.
  5. Heribert Illig, Gerhard Anwander: Bavaria and the phantom time. Archeology refutes documents from the early Middle Ages. A systematic study. Mantis-Verlag, Graefelfing 2000, ISBN 3-928852-21-3 (2 volumes).
  6. Amalie Fößel : Karl the fictional? In: Damals Nr. 8, 1999, p. 20 f.
  7. Dieter Herrmann: Again: Was there a phantom time in our history? In: Contributions to the history of astronomy 3 . 2000, p. 211-214 .
  8. ^ Solar eclipse of July 19, 418 and solar eclipse of December 23, 447 .
  9. Dirk Lorenzen : Phantom age astronomically refuted . In: Deutschlandfunk, May 14, 2017, accessed on May 15, 2017.
  10. ^ Heribert Illig : The Invented Middle Ages . Toronto 2005.
  11. ^ Tilmann Chladek, Dieter Lehmann: Illig remains true to himself . 2002.
  12. Hartmut Boockmann : Editorial . In: History in Science and Education (GWU) . 1997, issue 10.
  13. Lukas Wiegelmann: How to erase Charlemagne from history. In: Die Welt from November 16, 2009 ( online , accessed May 18, 2016); Johannes Saltzwedel : Deleted centuries. The absurd thesis of the “invented Middle Ages”. In: Spiegel Geschichte 6 (2012) ( online , accessed May 18, 2016); Tillmann Bendikowski , Arnd Hoffmann and Diethard Sawicki: History lies . About lying and falsifying in dealing with the past. Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 2003, pp. 92–95.
  14. Karl Hepfer: Conspiracy Theories. A philosophical critique of unreason . transcript, Bielefeld 2015, p. 107.