Certain things in the recent era can feel akin to the Middle Ages … or at least what we think of the Middle Ages. The truth is a lot of what pop-culture presents of the period doesn't match the actual history. This week at Cracked, we're doing a Middle Ages deep-dive – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Middle Ages, that time in history when Western Civilization regularly showed who was boss by achieving something no other civilizations even thought possible ... like nearly getting wiped out because of literally piss-poor sanitation. Well, some people have been claiming that various big chunks of glorious days were flat never really took place, and we just can't let that get taken away from us.

John Everett Millais

Women also started driving very early.

The Phantom time hypothesis is a historical conspiracy theory put forward by German historian (?) Heribert Illig. It accuses the most important powerful people living in 1000 AD to be unsatisfied with merely owning most space in the known world to the point that they had to lay claim to time itself. Ellig claimed that Emperor Otto III of Rome, Constantine VII of Byzantium, and Pope Sylvester II of Jesus inserted 297 years into various periods of history prior to their lifetimes just so they could rule in the very cool 1000th year after the gory death of Christ. Everybody else just played along because the real world is weirder than the plot of Assassin's Creed. lllig decided in 1991 (or 1694) that this would be a pretty cool hill to die on. We doubt the veracity of his discoveries, considering all the evidence as well as the number of Hollywood films pointing to the contrary, but there are numerous counterpoints that totally make sense (provided that you too have a degree from the University of Facebook).

Illig claims "our" version of history is wrong because of our historians' over-reliance on written text and because there's a lack of archeological evidence pointing to various years that we claim to have taken place.

Santeri Viinamäki/Wiki Commons

Using this logic, the aliens who'll come in contact with the remnants of our world will think the year 2000 lasted over 20 years.

The most hilarious defense for the claim, however, is that the years before 614 AD and post 911 AD were pretty eventful historically, but those in-between were boring, meaning they could only have been a complete fabrication. Oh, wait, Charlemagne, the guy who re-glued Europe after the fall of the Roman empire and spread Christianity all over it was alive in that period and did all of those things when he was alive, surprisingly. No problem, as Illig swiftly solves that problem by declaring that Charlemagne was also made-up.

On top of that, the theory completely falls to the ground for the same reason that all Ancient Aliens-type theories do: because they forget human history isn't just white people-history. Charlemagne would have been joined in the lobby of world-altering people to never exist by the prophet Muhammad, as well as the entire Tang dynasty, one of China's greatest ever dynasties.

Wiki Commons

Pictured: the Byzantine embassy to a place that doesn't exist.

Top Image: Jean-Victor Schnetz

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