I recently came a across an article about a group that believes we’ve managed to make up 300 years of history between the years 600-900 A.D.. They say this happened because Otto II wanted to have his ruling in the auspicious year of 1000.
So why does this matter? When I brought this up in class, Dr. Seaman noted that it wouldn’t change anything. It’s not like three hundred years would be ripped away from us, because it never existed. It would mean moving our calendars back to 1712 on the new year rather than moving forward 2012. At first, I agreed, it really would mean nothing. These are just numbers after all, not real definitions of anything. Even Theory Toolbox notes that time is just a social construction rather than a part of nature.
But that’s just the problem: it’s a social construction. The same article also talked about when England switched to the Gregorian calender in the 1700s they technically lost 11 days and people, believing that this had been stolen from their lives, rioted over it. We are so attached to our perception of time, that to lose 11 days seemed horrific. Imagine if the world was suddenly told we had lost 300 years. True, it’s not an actual lost, just an adjustment, but time is so intricately tied to our sense of being that we can’t see it as just a number anymore.
This also brings up the question of what to do with the apparent history that exists in that time frame. It could be that, over time, occurrences that previously had no set year were put there and that, over the course of hundreds of years, we have just accepted what were originally guesses as truth. This reinforces Theory Toolbox‘s stance that history is never completely subjective or true. If this theory of ‘phantom time’ is to be believed, we would essentially be accusing Otto II of making up history. So often we see this idea that history is written by the victors, and, as the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto II certainly was a victor. However, I still wonder at how he would have grappled with the knowledge that he was moving the calender three hundred years. Just as those in England in the 1700s had trouble with 11 days, I believe Otto II would certainly have found it hard to wrap his mind around 300 years, even if the measurement of time back then was, at best, guesswork.
Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to read it: http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/transcript/do-we-live-in-the-18th-century/