Is there a Medieval 300-year-time-fake?

Heribert Illig and his thesis of the invented 300 years in the Middle Ages: astronomically tested. 

by Sepp Rothwangl, Graz. 
Published in zeit&raum no. 108

The Germanist, systems analyst, and scholar, Dr. Heribert Illig has provided us for some time with heated discussions about his provocative and fantastic theses, that 297 years of the Middle Ages (September 614 until August 911) did not take place, but rather are an invention and time forgery of the "first millennium emperor" Otto III and his contemporaries. Outgrowths of this discussion glide off into personal offense, in which Illig's thesis by his worst opponents is compared even to the Auschwitz-lie (denying Nazi death camps). Illig published essentially this thesis in his books "Das erfundene Mittelalter" (the invented Middle Ages), "Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht" (who has changed the time) and the magazine "Zeitenspruenge" (times leaps). 

Illig does rely largely on architectural criticism and written documents, whose supposed loss or exposure as copies and forgery brings him to the ventured supposition that the time itself to which these artefacts relate did not take place. With this argument, Illig uses a special trick, making the previously certain ground under the feet of the traditional historians vanish. Illig exceeds thereby the boundary of historical science and comes in contact with astronomy and calendar science and into a zone that forms a relatively young discipline under the name archeoastronomy, which actually follows the trace of one of the oldest sciences - time arrangement.

The following article does not focus on if, how, and what has been falsified in the Middle Ages, but rather only on whether and when, generally, the time in which, for example, Charlemagne would have lived, took place or this time itself did not exist. The core of this review is the course of the celestial bodies within in this relatively continuous and calculable period. Mankind measures time using the stars, says Franz Boll. Lay people, whose knowledge is based on belief, rather than science, say: "The course of the stars determines time," and from this, religious people derive the saying that "Heaven guides everything on Earth." Remarkable events of the stars' courses, no matter if because of belief, superstition, or knowledge, were recorded and delivered by historians. Through the motto "the stars don't lie", the one who reports their courses provides us with very precise statements on the running of the time that passes synchronously with the stars' courses. So certain salient sky events like solar and lunar eclipses and planetary conjunctions often can be dated very exactly, even with only vague reports. The change of the respective spring- or autumn constellations, i.e. the precession, gives at the same time the approximate time frame in which an often very old description is culturally imbedded. Comparison to coinciding reports and chronologies from different cultures increases the redundancy substantially and would reveal the time forgery or error of an isolated region. If a report of some heavenly events in ancient time can be identified securely, in consequence the progress of the time can be established up to date, because of the synchronous and continuous courses of the heavenly bodies with the run time. Time holes, times leaps, or time extensions have no place. The sky course is similar to a clock, with the difference that it does not stop and there is no need to wind it up like a clock. Also, the sudden appearance or abrupt path changes of planets and sudden pole-shifts belong in the empire of the imagination and certainly did not take place in the examined period. The incontestable accuracy of the current knowledge of the movements of the celestial bodies was proved for anybody visibly in the last solar eclipse, which was precalculated correctly, to the exact second, does not allow us however to be sure of precise calculations over many ten thousands of years. Nevertheless, they reach out for some millenniums. Existing reports on special and rare celestial appearances out of time or location that lay within or outside of the access of the "time-faking-gang" assumed by Illig, can be reviewed on its agreement with today's well-known celestial courses. Therefore, by using some ancient reports, first of all, some astronomical and calendrical arguments are presented that speak against Illig's thesis of the invented 300 years in the Middle Ages:

1. The reports of the celestial locations of Spica since Timocharis and a short story on the discovery and ascertainment of the precession. 

In ancient Greece, Hipparchos (about 150 BCE) discovered and approximated the size of the precession. Already more than 150 years before Hipparchos, the Chaldean astronomer Kidinnu, in Greek Kidenas, described this phenomenon. Kidinnu already knew the repeating period of the eclipses, later called the Saros cycle. The actual reason of the shifting of the equinoxes, caused by the wobble of Earths axis, was not yet recognized. Nevertheless its effect was observed and indicated at that time Hipparchos estimated the value of the equinoctial shifting on the basis of an existing, older report by Timocharis (ca. 300 BCE). At Timocharis' time, the distance between Spica and the autumn equinox point was 8° and this decreased to 6° in the 150 years until Hipparchos. The observed variation would have settled accordingly 1° in 75 years and would approach the value calculated today, 71.66 years for 1°, very closely. Hipparchos supposed, probably like Kidinnu before him, a false measurement of the Precession with 100 years for 1°, perhaps in order to round up this slow movement on entire millenniums and to harmonize with the Babylonian number system. The 36,000 years (10 * 60 * 60) in which the equinoxes would have passed through the total zodiac (360) after the assumption of Hipparchos, give a reference to the Babylonian hexagesimal system, which also relates to the Chaldean Kidinnu. On the basis of this false acceptance of the constant of precession of 100 years per 1° for each 12th part of the zodiac, a period of exactly 3000 years arises. Today, on the other hand, for the duration of the so-called platonic year, 25,800 earth years are assumed. (71.66 x 360° = 25,800). This value of 1° in 100 years of Hipparchos was used by Ptolemy and falsely calculated further, although according to observation and reports by Ptolemy (150 CE) the celestial position (ecliptical length) of Spica had already diminished to 2° west from the autumn equinox point, which corresponds rather exactly to today's back-calculated values. This shows that the ancient astronomers trusted their fictional numbering-system more than their own observations and/or those of their ancestors. The star Spica 2000 years ago was a general reference point for temporal orientation with a special symbolic and linguistic meaning that still today is valid. Spica, the brightest star and corn-ear of the constellation Virgo, is named Greek "era" and Latin "arista." Concepts such as era, aristocracy, and "born of a virgin" derive from that. At that time, the rising new age was meant, caused by the precession, whose value was determined by Spica. At the morning before sunrise at Northward spring equinox, Spica, due to precession, arose slowly year by year, higher and higher upon the western horizon and became visible to anybody as a refence for measuring of time and shifting of seasons (era). Around the year 300 CE, Spica might have reached the same ecliptic length as well as the autumn point (2° North from Spica). In the year 325, the council of Nicea with the adjusting of the Christian Easter celebration took place. At that time a full moon stood at the spring day therefore directly at Spica in the constellation Virgo! In addition, as a comparison: in recent years, the full moon of the spring day has moved into the constellation LEO with its main star Regulus, which was named by the early Arabic astronomers Basilisk. Because of the precession, the sun on the first spring day begins to overcome the boundary of the constellation Aquarius (exactly 180° vis-á-vis the full moon). That the actual value of the constant of precession did not correspond with 1° to 100 years, might have been noticeable to some late antiquity oriental stargazers. Probably the earliest and best report about it comes from an Arabic document called "Tabulae probatae" and/or "az-Zig al-mumtan" from the year 829-830 CE, which gives a constant of 66 and/or 66 2/3 years for 1° of the zodiac, as copies and reports show. In the year 880 CE, another Arab, al Battani, published a catalogue of 533 stars, whose lengths differ 11° 10' from that of Ptolemy. The location of Spica is indicated as about 9.2° west of the autumn point. Also, al Battani reckons with a constant of precession of 66.6 y/1°. The Fixed Star Book of as-Sufi, called Azophi , dated 1st October 964, gives 12° 42' difference from the star location of Ptolemy's Almagest, which means that the location of Spica was about 10.7° west of the autumn equinox, yielding a constant of 66.6 y/1°.

For all Arabs, it is remarkable that they don't use the constant of 100 y/1° like the ancient Greeks and Ptolemy, but rather supposed the more correct value of 66 2/3 years per 1° of the zodiac and have used this to calculate the location of Spica since Ptolemy. This explains the discrepancy of about 1° between Arabic and Persian locations of Spica and those that have been recalculated with today's value of 71.66 . This leads to the conclusion that the Orientals calculated therewith that in a period of 2000 years, the equinoxes would shift 30° (about one constellation of the zodiac). (2000: 30 = 66.6...)! Coincidentally, the value of precession is also the number 6-6-6 of the Revelation of John of Patmos, whose description of the end times makes powerful astrological and calendrical statements. Revelation 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man and his number is 6-6-6. (King James Version)

The following graphic shows the existing reports of ancient authors about the distances of Spica from the autumn point:


  Year date
Years up to
Distance between 
autumn equinox
- Spica 
(recent  calculation
71,66 J. / 1°)
autumn equinox
- Spica regarding to
ancient report Bericht
Distance between 
autumn equinox
- Spica 
(calculated with 66,6 J. / 1°) 
since Ptolemy
Ancient assumed constant of precession
Timocharis 300 BCE 2300 -8,3° -8°    
Hipparchos 150 BCE 2150 -6,2° -6°   100 y
Ptolemaios 150 CE 1850 -2° -2° / -2°40' -2° 100 y
Nicea 325 CE 1675 0,5°      
Al Battani 880 1120 8,2° 9,2° (11°10' since Ptol.) 8,9° 66 2/3 y
As-Sufi 964 1036 9,3° 10,7° (+12°42' 
10,2° 66 2/3 y

It reveals therefore: the shifting of the autumn point since the year 150 BCE (Hipparchos) until 2000 CE corresponds to exactly 30°! (2150y: 30° = 71,66 J/°). Because from ancient times reports exist on these celestial locations, and they agree with the actual precession, no time is missing in between, and it evident that the precessional clock makes no "time leaps". The course of the precession and ancient reports permit no time abridgements, as is proposed by Illig.

Click image: The shifting of the autumn equinox due to precession in the past 2300 years.

2. The 10-day correction in the Gregorian calendar reform regarding the Julian calendar since Nicea.

In order to bolster his thesis, Illig uses the argument that the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 CE, in which the well-known 10 days were removed, which was meant to correct the time period since Julius Caesar. In the approximately 1600 years since Caesar, the difference between the Julian calendar and the actual heavenly courses should have added 13 days, which would actually result from the difference of the year lengths. (365,25 * 1600 = 584400; 365,2422 * 1600 = 584387,52. diffrence: 12,46 days). Because the reform only corrected for 10 day, Illig says, two and one-half (2.5) leap days are missing, which correspond to the his postulated 300 years. Here Illig makes a further gross error: the calendar reform by Gregory XIII had reference specifically to the spring equinox at Nicea. Like a more exact look at "inter gravissimas", that document of the Gregorian reform shows that its intention was, to transfer the vernal equinox on that spring day of the calendar to its location at the council of Nicea in the year 325CE. The corresponding text place in "inter gravissimas" reads:

"…primum, certam verni aequinoctii sedem; deinde rectam positionem XIV lunae primi mensis, quae vel in ipsum aequinoctii diem incidit, vel ei proxime succedit; postremo primum quemque diem dominicum, qui eamdem XIV lunam sequitur; curavimus non solum aequinoctium vernum in pristinam sedem, a qua iam a concilio Nicaeno decem circiter diebus recessit, restituendum, et XIV paschalem suo in loco, a quo quatuor et eo amplius dies hoc tempore distat, reponendam,sed viam quoque tradendam et rationem, qua cavetur, ut in posterum aequinoctium et XIV luna a propriis sedibus nunquam dimoveantur. .."

See: full version of papal bull inter gravissimas

In English:
... at first we fix the exact date of the spring equinox; then the exact date of the fourteenth day of the moon (full moon), who reaches his age on same day of equinox or immediately after it, finally the first Sunday that follows to this fourteenth day of the moon (full moon). Consequently we take such care not only so that the date of vernal equinox is replaced on its former date, from which it has deviated approximately 10 days since the council of Nicäa, but that therewith is given back the lawful place to the fourteenth day of the Easter (fully) moon, of which it is removed now four and more days, but also that there is established a methodical and rational system, that guarantees in the future, the equinoxes and the fourteenth day of the moon (full moon) are not moving away from its suitable positions.

The pontifical document clarifies in the sequence that this day of the vernal equinox is the "XII Kalendas Aprilis" , to which the current 21 March corresponds:
...Deinde, ne in posterum a XII kalendas aprilis aequinoctium recedat, statuimus bissextum quarto quoque anno (uti mos est) continuari debere, praeterquam in centesimis annis...

These sources and modern calculations of the earth's course show the spring equinox was on 21 March at the time of the Council of Nicäa. As easily can be calculated, the discrepancy between the Julian calendar formula and the actual earth's course in the 1258 years between Nicäa (325) and 1583 yields actually about 10 days.
(1583 - 325 = 1258; 365,25 * 1258 = 459484,5; 365.2422 x 1258 = 459474,69; 459484,5 - 459474,69 = 9,81 days).
Illig's attempt to cite the Gregorian reform to defend his thesis has no basis.

See: image of original document "inter gravissimas"

3. Ancient Reports of Rare and Remarkable Planetary Conjunctions.

The long-past courses of planets have left a trace in ancient reports; so the age can be determined exactly, just as the trace of wild animals can be read by the practiced trapper or the data of a criminal by the criminal (forensic) specialist. One of the best known report of an important conjunction is found in the report of the Magis in the gospel of Matthew. The so-called star of Bethlehem is a triple conjunction of both planet Jupiter and Saturn at the time when Pisces was spring constellation and assumed as a messenger of a new age. Due to the precession 2000 years ago, the newly risen vernal constellation was the starry background of the heavenly play for the planets' loops with a triple conjunction. ICHTHYS (IHS, Greek: fish) became therefore the first symbol of the Christians. There are also numerous extra-Biblical witnesses in Babylonian pottery inscriptions describing of this sky event. The evangelist used this event, introducing it into his birth story of Jesus in order to provide Jesus with a celestial birth to strengthen his position as a son of God, rescuer, and Messiah. Somewhat later, Bar Kochba, that star-son and rebel against emperor Hadrian, gives a further Jewish parallel, similar to some current New Age movements. The planet constellation, confessed as a star of Bethlehem, took place in the year 7 BCE, which leads to the well-known discrepancy of seven years between the birth of Christ and the calendar's beginning date.

A predecessor of this triple conjunction in the autumn constellation Virgo took place 523/522 BCE and was used by the Persian king Darius to establish his empire and to found the city Persepolis. Of further interest, the return of this threefold conjunction, also called a "Grande conjunction of the religions" was a well known alignment of both planets reported by the famous Islamic astrologer and chronologer, Abu Ma'shar el-Bachi, called Albumasar, who died 886 CE in Bagdad. He writes in his "Book of the Thousands" : "Between the first year of the year of the flood and the first day of the year in which happened the conjunction that announced the Arabic people lie 3671 years." With the "conjunction announcing the Arabic people", Abu Ma' shar meant the rare triple Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the constellation Libra of the year 571 CE, just before the appearance of Mohamed. 3672 years before 571CE accordingly lies the year 3102 BCE!
And this year 3102 BCE is quite a treasure!
The start of the Indian age Kali Yuga is indicated by the famous Indian astronomer Aryabhata with a date that corresponds to 17 February 3102 BCE, when a conjunction of all planets took place. (A Yuga lasts 432,000 years = 12 * 36000). It is especially interesting in this connection that according to Aryabhata, 3600 years of the Kali Yuga had expired when he was exactly 23 years old. Aryabhata was therefore age 23 in the year 499 CE. This year 3102 BCE is identified by many additional late antiquity authors as an important point of orientation in time. The Persian Sassanians (224 - 642 CE) begin their astronomical tablets (Al Biruni's "Zij ash-Shah", or tablets of the Shah) with the acceptance of a joint starting point of all planetary movements in the year 3102 BCE in Pisces.
The renowned mathematician, physicist, and astronomer B. L. van der Waerden (1903-1996) dedicated himself to this subject and expressed the theory that the date of this planetary conjunction is not based upon a historic delivery, but rather on a recalculation by using the "eternal planet tablets" by the astronomers of late antiquity.

By the way, a return of this conjunction of all planets took place on 5 May 2000, and the suspicion is confirmed that the establishment of the year 1 CE (anno ab incarnatione domini nostri Jesu Christu, or AD) by the Scytian monk-astronomer Dionysius Exiguus (around the year 530 CE) intended that this conjunction should fall exactly at the second millennium. Through it a logical explanation arises for the crucial seven years between the yearly count and the star of Bethlehem. If the Persians and Indians could calculate back 3600 years from the start of an age to an actual conjunction (3102 BCE) by using the well known planetary periods, certainly Dionysius Exiguus also could have calculated the same time for a period of 1500 years into the future. He has aimed the end of the Christian age of fishes (ICHTHYS) with the assumed constant of precession of 66.6y/1°. That gives a measurement of precession of °30 in 2000 years for one constellation. This value might be known at earlier time as a "secret of the apocalypse" and came up in the sequence when it appears with the Arabic astronomers.

All the quoted planetary conjunctions can easily be calculated with astronomical tablets or computer programs. A missing period of 300 years is impossible at the same time. There recurred, for example, in the year 967 CE a triple Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces. Because both large planets are describing very precise paths, their triple conjunctions (retrograde simultaneous loops of planets) depend on the respective location on the earth, and therefore uneven, very rare, and somewhat chaotic are distributed, the triple conjunction leaves behind an unmistakable trace in history, especially that of religion.

A calendar can be falsified, but this does not disturb the course of planets. The course of all planets mirrors the nativity date and the horoscope. This excursion into the astrology should not mean to trust in character and prophetic statements of the horoscope, but rather it serves only the chronology. There is a Greek horoscope, corresponding to the year 81 CE in which reports exactly with degrees and minutes according to the "eternal planet tablets" (Neugebauer und Van Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes, No 81). The original text says that the planet Mercury stands in apogeum and that the movements of the "seven Gods" were carefully studied by the "old men of the Egyptians" and were calculated according the eternal tablets. How should the exact planetary positions of this horoscope agree with today if 300 years are missing, because the positions of the planets is always changing, and a repetition of a planetary position is possible only under a corresponding tolerance?


Because of the German version of this article a bitter response appeared in Illig's own magazine Zeitenspruenge.(Astromania and Science only German)
Illig's article was again responded by Sepp Rothwangl in the article called Astrophoby.