Perhaps you thought it was because of normal things like “people are sometimes inspired by the past” or “the fact that ancient statues looked nothing like we imagine,” but no! The truth, if you believe a Russian mathematician named Anatoly Fomenko, is much darker.
You see, the truth, Fomenko says, is that the ancient world never really happened.
“What??” we hear you cry – or possibly, if you’re one of our regular readers, “oh right, another one of those phantom time conspiracies.” But Fomenko’s proposed timeline of the world is… possibly even weirder than the one that says 300 years of history never happened. See, according to Fomenko, all history before about 1600 CE is fake.
The theory – a term which we are using here quite loosely – is mainly based on statistics.
Pick up a book on any historical period, he says, and you’ll find even the most impartial records to be set out quite evenly: more pages devoted to this queen or that discovery; fewer for such-and-such a dynasty or king so-and-so.
There’s a good reason for that – Genghis Khan, for example, did a lot more with his time on Earth than some other random guy, and so we have more to say about him. But, according to Fomenko, these discrepancies don’t just tell us how interesting a historical figure or time period was – they also reveal a worldwide conspiracy that stretches back centuries.
Dozens of times throughout “history,” he says, we see patterns like this emerge in the chronology – the exact same patterns, he believes. Compare, for instance, the story of the Iron Age Kingdom of Judah with the Byzantine Empire: sure, we’re told the two eras occurred more than a millennium apart from each other – but merge a bunch of Emperors into one, pretend the Byzantine Empire disintegrated about 500 years earlier than it actually did, and the two histories are exactly the same!
Rather than taking from this observation that humans are a predictable species, doomed to always repeat the same mistakes until eventually procrastinating ourselves into extinction, Fomenko concluded something much grander.
Anything that happened before about 1600, he said, is likely just some amalgamation and retelling of the same small collection of events. So all those lessons in school about Ancient Romans or Greeks? Lies. Stories about the Egyptian Pharaohs? Just that: stories – the real ones lived alongside Isaac Newton and the Mayflower. The Bible? Hogwash – according to Fomenko, Jesus was born in Crimea, in 1152 AD, which at the very least raises the question of what he thinks AD stands for.
If you think that’s farfetched, wait until you hear what Fomenko says about the Old Testament. Most major historical figures are actually composites or reboots of much later people, he says – one notable example being the Biblical King Solomon. According to Fomenko, King Solomon is actually the same guy as Suleiman the Magnificent, the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who reigned between 1520 and 1566 CE. Meaning that, yes, the Old Testament is newer than the New Testament, and Jesus was apparently capable of remembering things from 400 years in the future.
But why? What’s the endgame? Well, according to Fomenko, this big lie all comes down to an alliance between the Pope, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Russian Romanov dynasty – the goal, rather inexplicably in the latter case, being to hide the existence of a mighty “Russian Horde.”
Fomenko’s version of history reads kind of like how you’d imagine the Illuminati conspiracy if it were being told from the point of view of the Illuminati: the Russian Horde was a vast and powerful empire, responsible for building the pyramids and founding Rome; it spearheaded the colonization of the Americas and held the ultimate seat of power in Europe. Unfortunately, it apparently sat at that very specific level of power where, despite impacting the world in extremely noticeable and long-lasting ways and existing relatively recently in the grand scheme of things, they were also inexplicably easy to cover up from the general public. Which is, of course, the only reason you’ve not heard of them.
Now, obviously, there are a few holes in Fomenko’s theory – ok, there are more than a few, so much so that historian Charles Halperin called his work “so preposterous that it was not worth valuable scholarly research time to refute them,” adding that “volumes could be written correcting every page.”
For one thing, there’s carbon dating. And dendrology. And now we come to think of it, loads of evidence of things existing before 1600 CE. Fomenko dismisses these dating techniques as faulty, but then uses the infamously fake Shroud of Turin as evidence of Jesus’s later lifespan – perplexingly, he says that the Turin Shroud is legit, because “the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud … concurs” with the dates they calculated.
He sets Rome, Jerusalem, and Troy as all one city, retold by different chroniclers, which somewhat falls apart when you remember that those places all exist in real life, and aren’t in the same place. The “linguistic arguments” proposed in support of the idea “are worthless,” Halperin says, pointing out that “Slavonic was never written right to left or without vowels. The word ‘Mongol’ did not derive from the Greek megalion, nor ‘Batu’ from the Russian batia, ‘father.’ ‘Ottoman’ is not a variant of ‘ataman,’ ‘Vasilii’ does not mean ‘basileus,’ and so on and so forth ad infinitum […] An astonishing quantity of Fomenko and Nosovskii’s reconstructions are founded exclusively on the basis of incompetent linguistics.”
Perhaps the most puzzling thing of all is the fact that Fomenko’s parallel universe is… well, it’s surprisingly popular. In Russia, at least – more than one million copies of his seven (yes, seven) volume history have been sold there, and Halperin claims that as many as 30 percent of Russians have some sympathy for his ideas.
Nevertheless, Fomenko may be respected in academic circles – but as a mathematician, definitely not a historian. As H.G. van Bueren, professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Utrecht, wrote in his review of Fomenko’s work: “the only good word that can be said is that it contains an enormous amount of factual historical material, untidily ordered, true; badly written, yes; mixed-up with conjectural nonsense, sure; but still, much useful stuff. For the rest of the book is absolutely worthless ... In brief: a useless and misleading book.”