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Pseudohistory at its Worst
on June 12, 2011
The only conspiracies here have to do with the number of insanely positive reviews. There are twenty(!) here where the reviewer only has one review to their name and it's a five-star review for this book. And more coming. Funny that. It's almost like somebody has set up multiple accounts and is trying to up the rating. Parallelism indeed. Two with no other reviews may be coincidence. But twenty? Twenty! Good job buddy. Very subtle. You might as well have just copied and pasted your review.
So, I'm not a mathematician and I don't know enough to contradict Fomenko's math, but I don't have to. By that reasoning Fomenko wouldn't be able to contradict me because I'm a Classical History Major and this is (ostensibly) a History book. I can tell you exactly why his math must be wrong and why he should be ashamed to call himself a scientist. Scientists must make the models match the data, not the other way round. When the facts don't fit your theory then the problem isn't with the facts, it's with your theory. And boy do the facts not fit this 'theory.' It would be hard to think of a way in which history could make less sense than it does through his model.
First, a brief explanation for anyone not familiar with this book. Anatoly Fomenko is a Doctor of Mathematics at Moscow State University. Despite a lack of support from his colleagues (who consider his ideas on history nuts) he published a series of seven books in which he rewrote the history of the world based on his ideas of Statistics. As explained on the back cover, "Jesus Christ was born in 1053 A.D. and crucified in 1086 A.D. The Old Testament refers to mediaeval events. Apocalypse was written after 1486 A.D." I'll go more into why he thinks that makes sense later. The Roman Empire and all of Classical civilization was invented by Jesuit monks who wrote in a remarkably short time all of Western literature and invented an entire civilization which people then immediately forgot never existed. All Classical buildings are simply medieval ones that have been misdated.
And now a brief history of... well history, as seen through Fomenko-vision: History begins when Andronicos Comnenos dies and becomes Jesus. History records him as an unsuccessful Greek emperor with no real successes who was beaten to death by the mob and not a poor prophet from Nazareth who was crucified but hey, what do they know. It's not like the crucifixion was an important part of the story or anything. Immediately all of Europe decides that they're Christian and march against the Muslims. It may sound confusing why they'd blame the Muslims for what was an internal coup but they were probably just confused because Mohammed wasn't born yet. At some point they changed their minds and decided to skip the first three crusades and jump straight onto the Fourth (except that they didn't. It was actually the same as the First. Obviously. Please try and keep up). They then sacked Constantinople which was also Rome which was Troy which was Jerusalem. At some point they get confused and occupied the Holy Land as well and then forget all about Constantinople and let it fall back to the Greeks since Jerusalem was now Constantinople which was Troy which was Rome. People back then had very short memories often forgetting why they did something before they even did it. Very sad. During the First Crusade the Greeks decide to avenge the kidnapping of their queen by... also sacking Constantinople. After sacking their own city they quietly vanish for a few years, probably in embarrassment. Some time later Erasmus wrote the New Testament confusing generations of scholars who wondered what they had been copying out for all that time. Having now written a New Testament it was decided that they needed an Old one. I'm sure the reasons for the reversed order are as obvious to everyone else as they are to Fomenko. Some time in the 15th Century David rose up, except that he was Turkish and ruled in Constantinople. Despite the many wars with the Turks Europe had never warred with the Turks and accepted all of these events as holy writ. After all, the Turks were really Russian in funny hats and the Russians ruled the world. The Byzantines were secretly ruling in England. After the death of Solomon (Suleimon) the Jews split off from Christianity because they were tired of not being persecuted because of something they didn't do and decided that being hunted by the Inquisition was more fun. In the confusion the Catholics and Orthodox Christians split apart as well because everyone else was doing it and it seemed a good idea at the time. They were to regret this later when the Catholics sacked their city but that had already happened so it was fine.
It turns out that Russia has dominated the world since the earliest recorded history (what nationality was Fomenko again?). The Mongols were not from Mongolia because the people there are nothing but worthless servants of the Russian Empire (it's ok. Fomenko assures us that the Mongols never knew of Genghis Khan until some pesky monks told them that they used to rule the world). Russia was actually the major Empire that the Romans were based off of and have existed since the dawn of civilization. Silly Georgians thinking they are anything but the personal property of Russia! Ha ha. They also controlled America, Europe and North Africa by 1300 so I guess that we should all submit to the Russian yoke as is our hereditary duty. Occasionally a czar would allow the governors of Europe (kings hah!) to wage war on each other if they pleased him. Presumably the English sucked up to him better than France which is why they did so well in the Hundred Years War but then lost his favor again which resulted in the French winning. Joan of Arc was probably the czar's sister or something. The czar could summon anyone to his court and they had to obey which is why Moscow is renowned the world over as being filled with better artwork and architecture than such dives as Paris and Rome (which isn't the REAL Rome after all). After Russia fell in the 1600s (through internal troubles. No one could EVER conquer Russians) the rest of the world immediately conspired to hide that they ever existed lest they should try to rule over them again. Thus they erased this empire from the history books and replaced it with such lies as Rome and the Holy Roman Empire (couldn't they even pick a new name? Obvious!). Thus the treacherous Romanovs rose to power (did I mention that he first published this under the Soviets?) and they too decided to forget there had ever been a Russian Empire of such a scale. Many "Roman" documents are simply Russian ones with a few name changes. Latin is merely corrupted church Slavonic despite belonging to an entirely different branch of the language family. The Russians probably invented it to confuse future generations of schoolkids. They had after all had it engraved all over the southern part of their empire on specific styles of buildings which they immediately buried and built medieval cities on top of to confuse archaeologists. It never showed up in Russia itself. Perhaps they punished the provinces by making them write everything in Latin. Oh those cruel Russians. After the late 18th Century things begin to return to what is normally called history.
As you can see it is far less confusing than the 'conventional' timeline. You might think I'm making this up but that is what you get when you put all his history together. Minus the sarcasm perhaps.
It seems best to explain why he is wrong about the facts he lists before going into the facts that he's ignoring. First off comes a good example of how he combines Classical and Medieval history together. To him the First Crusade and the Trojan War are the same event. One of Fomenko's favorite tools, a chart, might demonstrate why this is.
First Crusade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| Trojan War
A war . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| A war
Sieges involved . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| All about a siege
East vs. West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| East vs. West
Um, took place on the planet earth . . . . . . . . . . .| Probably the same if it happened at all...
First Crusade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| Trojan War
Lead by Bohemund, Raymond, Geoffrey, etc. . . . ..| Led by Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus, etc. (No matching names)
Fought for religious reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| Fought for political/personal reasons
Traveled by land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| Traveled by sea
Leaders fought on horseback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| Leaders arrived on chariots, fought on foot
Weapons: lances, spears, iron swords, chain mail ..| Weapons: spears, bronze swords, bronze greaves
All participants monotheist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| All participants polytheist
Came from all over Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| Came from Greece
Lasted three years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .| Lasted ten years
Went to recover city . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..| Went to destroy city and recover wife
Set up a kingdom on enemy land . . . . . . . . . . . . .| Immediately returned home
Leaders became kings and lords of new land . . . . ..| Leaders offend the gods and are punished
Archaeology confirms presence in Israel . . . . . . . ..| Archaeology confirms presence in Greece
Mentioned the Trojan War in documents . . . . . . . .| Was the Trojan War...
As you can clearly see there is a great deal there fully justifying the combination of these two events as the same war. How could it not be?...
Clearly this idea is nuts and fails on any comparative level. There are almost no similarities between the two events except that they were both famous. To combine the two would require removing all facts except for the sieges. If you discard all that then there is nothing left.
His arguments for this are all mathematical and rely on eclipse records and other such information as well as a statistical analysis so vague that multiple mentions of sieges mean they must be the same one. By that reasoning my name is Stuart therefore I must be a king since previous Stuarts were kings of England. QED. Can I have my crown please? A key fact of mathematics is that garbage in=garbage out. He may have done all his calculations correctly, but if he feeds in the wrong data or assumptions then he'll still get worthless data back. Even I know better than to do what he does. By selecting only those sections of chronology which match his conclusions and ignoring those that don't he violates a key rule of statistics. My Statistics I teacher taught me that. It's as basic as you can get. For example he selects a segment of Byzantine Emperors and matches them with a series of Old Testament kings. The two dynasties match up very well indeed so he concludes that they must be identical. Sounds convincing. But why did he choose to compare that stretch of kings with that stretch of Emperors? Because they matched of course! Statistically speaking if you try hard enough you will be able to find matches in the lengths of reigns for various civilizations if you have no other qualifying factors. If he'd chosen Roman Emperors to match with the Byzantine ones he probably wouldn't have found his correlation. Or Frankish ones. Or English ones. Or even earlier Old Testament ones. In fact, even with that it doesn't fit because he has to combine Justinian and Justin I to make it match Manasseh. He had an even worse time fudging the list of ancient Spartan kings to make them match the despots of Mistra (p. 304). He actually inverted the Spartan king list, which makes total sense because people trying to hide what they did would naturally just invert the chronology instead of, y'know, making the dates up? It's not like there are any other similarities between the names he's matching. I should also point out that unlike the despots the Spartans had two kings at a time. He's actually skipped over the most famous king Leonidas (of SPARTANS! fame) because he didn't fit as well as the other one.
He also thinks he's being clever by comparing the ancient kings of Rome with a list of Emperors from the later Empire (p.305). This shows his fudging at its worst although people who've never studied it might not know it. It looks reasonable at first glance. Kings of Ancient Rome: Romulus Quirin, Numa Pompilius, Tuttus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquin the Ancient, Servius Tullius, Tarquin the Proud lasted in total 244 years. In the later Empire Constantine I, Basileos the Great/Asa, Valentinian I, Honorius, Aecius, Valentinian III, Recimer, Odoacer, Theodorich, The Goths last 252 years. The first thing that any Classicist will note is that those are not the correct English transliterations of their names. The translator didn't even try to get them right. Basileos the Great is St. Basil despite never being called "Basileos" or "the Great" in English. I have no idea who Asa is supposed to be. The problems with this: First the ancient kings are fake. Probably made up by Roman mythologists. Certainly they didn't know the exact dates when they ruled. So he's comparing a fictitious dynasty with a factual one. He'd undoubtedly say they're both fictitious but this chart was supposed to prove that and it doesn't prove anything of the sort. Moving on to the real Emperors. St. Basil wasn't an emperor, he was a bishop and theologian. He has no place on this chart. Fomenko has skipped over Constantius, Constantine II, Constans, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian I, Valens, Gratian, Thodosius, and Valentinian II unless one of them is Asa. So one king ruling 43 years has become 11, including Valentinian I who shows up next on the list after he's been dead for about 5 years. Actually he only shows up on the chart after he dies. Perhaps he's supposed to be Valentinian II? He is followed by Honorius who actually shows up at the right time for once but they do neglect to mention that the Empire has been split in two by this point and thus there are two Emperors whom he can chose from to fit his chart. Apparently that's not enough because the next man is... well I don't know who he is to be honest. He's certainly not an emperor. If Aecius is in fact Aetius then he was magister utriusque militiae (sort of head general) under Valentinian III who shows up next. Even someone who's never read anything about the Later Empire should note that Fomenko jumped straight from Valentinian I to III. Aetius in fact lasted a further ten years dying in 454 a few months before Valentinian III who had him killed. He only lists him as dying in 444 because that way he matches with Ancus Marcius giving him a 'reign' of 21 years. Following Valentinian III comes what is definitely supposed to be Ricimir. He was also not an Emperor but a general and had been killed several years before the Empire fell. There were nine Emperors during this time (in the West) and then the Western Empire fell. Not one to let facts get in the way Fomenko continues with the first of the Gothic kings. Finally he's met another section that matches with his list. Odoacer and Theodoric last 50 years to Servius Tullius' 44 (according to Fomenko). At this point he just gives up and the next king is "the Goths." Huh. Well that makes perfect sense. As you can see, despite his neat graph he's made up most of his dates and skipped over dozens of Emperors. The only ones that actually fit are Constantine I (the first one on the list) and Odoacer/Theodorich who were kinda two different people and not the same one like Servius Tullius. Even the bits that do match don't do so exactly and to have any significance it would have to match exactly. It's like saying that 2+2=5 because 2 is approximately 3. The average length of rule for a king is 20 years (look it up) which means that even a few years difference is a major deal statistically. That by the way is a valid and important use of statistics in historical studies.
I leave the astronomical stuff to people more qualified than I to judge it. Clearly if his statistical analysis is this far out of whack his astronomical analysis isn't gonna be much better. I shall stick to the limited attempts he makes to explain away all non-mathematical historical evidence.
The biggest problem that he finds is that all documents from Antiquity are copies. None of them are older than the 11th Century and thus must be fake. There are no original documents from the classical era (except that there are. See below). While this may sound convincing to anyone who has no contact with the subject it is inevitable if you think about it. The Romans were destroyed 1500 years ago. Parchment simply doesn't survive that long under ordinary circumstances. Any documents surviving must be copies. This doesn't mean that there is no way to test their authenticity. Comparisons of documents is one key way. If two documents are identical, or nearly so, then they may be presumed to come from the same source. Since it is possible to date documents in this way it can be worked out what the oldest one is and which document was copied from which source. What you find is that most of the more numerous sources are copies of multiple originals from unconnected authors on opposite sides of Europe. Which means that those documents must be based on even earlier sources. So already we're past Fomenko's 11th Century limit. Many forgeries can thus be detected by when they first appear on record, what sources they used to write it, and stylistic and factual variations. Fomenko is a mathematician. Every fact must be either true or false. Therefore this system must seem maddening and imprecise to him. And it is imprecise, at least on mathematical terms. That doesn't make it inaccurate.
Since dates do show up in documents from time to time he needs to come up with a way to discredit every writer who's ever lived and I have to admit he has a highly original way of doing so. Without offering any proof he asserts that Roman Numerals didn't have a number for ten. X stood for ten in Roman numerals but Fomenko believes that they only had I's and V's since X stood for Christ (p. 337). X was the first letter of Christos (Ch was spelt X) in Greek and therefore they put it in there to indicate that it was the 1st Century of the Christian era. It makes me wonder how a 12 (XII) year old boy can really be a 200 year old man but I'm sure that the mathematician knows what he's doing. 1 is also fictitious. As a Russian who doesn't use the Latin alphabet 1, I, J, and l look much the same to Fomenko and as he does with all things that look the same he combines them. 1 was not actually a number but the letter I (or J) and stood for Jesus (Iesus in Latin). So the year 1300 is actually the year 300 after Jesus. As proof of this he includes a picture of a tombstone in Britain with what he claims is a J for a 1. Sure it is Dr. Fomenko. Sure it is. Don't worry. We believe you. As you might imagine he gives no evidence apart from the similarity (to a Russian) of appearance and treats his idle and unsupported speculation with the same weight as solid fact. He also views anno domini (AD) as being misunderstood (p. 351). While anyone who's taken even a little Latin will tell you that it means 'in the year of the lord' Fomenko has an alternate translation. Since 'dom' means house in Russian he assumes that it means the same thing in Latin. Thus anno domini would mean 'in the year of the (ruling) house' and would refer to the current ruler and not Jesus making it impossible to determine dates from AD. This is an early example of the ethnocentrism that is to dominate his later works. Needless to say this doesn't work in Latin. While the word house in Latin is domus I refuse to give him credit for this since he referred to a Russian word, not the Latin one. However 'in the year of the house' in Latin would be anno domi, not anno domini. Domini is the genitive of dominus which means master. While it is connected to the word for house (being one who is in charge of it) it has an entirely distinct meaning from it and the word cannot be used in that way. Clearly the fact that he doesn't know Latin isn't stopping him from making sweeping assumptions about it. Anyways this makes dating from the dates included in documents impossible which is certainly convenient for him isn't it? Of course all of this makes it hard to explain the many medieval Universal Histories that went from the Creation to the present and used BC and AD in exactly the same way they do now. I love the idea that Bede was actually living in the 18th Century describing the goings on of the Stuarts and Hanovers as if they were a dozen petty feuding monarchs in an only-recently Christianized land.
Another way to determine a document's (or artifact's) age is Radiocarbon dating. Fomenko dismisses this entire branch of science as unreliable because it disagrees with him. Carbon Dating never provides exact dates, merely dates +- a certain number of years. It can usually be stated to within 30 years or so. This isn't a science that we're asked to have blind faith in. It can, and has been, verified. Radiocarbon dating is used most frequently in archaeology where it is one of the only ways to date a structure in the absence of written evidence. Fomenko dismisses this because it completely eradicates his 'theory.' Radiocarbon dating matches historical dating with high accuracy. Only in documents written about prehistory is there any variation which is to be expected given how little data there must have been for ancient historians to go on when they were dealing with events before their time. This is the factor that most of his supporters jump on because it is seen as harder to disprove. I admit I'm not sure how accurate it is, although it's certainly far better than +-1,000 years. But then, this isn't the foundation of his argument. He only attacks it because his 'theory' requires that it not be true. The real 'strength' of his argument lays in his statistical analyses and astronomical work. Even if Carbon Dating turned out to be rubbish he would be no closer to proving his 'theory.'
To conclude: his events don't combine, his dismissal of carbon dating doesn't hold up, and his statement about forged documents is completely inaccurate. That last point I will demonstrate further below under the section which deals with the evidence that he denies or ignores. And speaking of...
Having shown what utter rot his selective use of facts is it's time to turn to the facts that he doesn't want people to know. Starting with something I mentioned above: documents. While parchment doesn't last forever as I have said, there are certain conditions which allow it to be preserved for much longer than it would normally be. These finds are rare but offer a valuable insight into the ancient world. The most famous of these finds comes from Vindolanda. This was a Roman fort just below Hadrian's Wall. There were a series of letters written on thin slivers of wood which were preserved underwater in the muddy ground. These letters dealt with common every day things including troop strength, parties, new clothing, etc. They also include selections from Roman literature that Fomenko dismisses as forgeries. These documents are originals, not copies, and deal with an everyday Roman life that Fomenko claims never existed. The key points is this: there was no way that a group of Jesuits working in the 16th Century could have known that anyone would have the technology to read what was written. The processes used to recover the letters was invented by archaeologists in the 1970s including the infrared photography needed to recover them. There was no way that Jesuits could have known that they would survive by chance, would be discovered, or could be read once they had been. Furthermore, what would be the point? It's not like people doubted the Romans existed. Why create all of this useless information only to bury it forever in a place where it should have rotted away? Especially in Protestant England where Jesuits weren't exactly welcome? This parchment find is not the only one. There is a major dump in Egypt (also outside Jesuit control) and smaller ones in several other places around Europe and the Middle East. Furthermore, the building that the Vindolanda documents was found in was clearly Roman in design and structure. Which brings me 'round to my next point.
Clearly Fomenko has no interest in the arts or humanities. He dismisses art historians with all the contempt he clearly feels for any field that isn't Math or Physics. Which explains how he can make some of his outlandish claims. I should point out that he considers none of these claims as proof of his 'theory.' He doesn't even take artistic studies seriously enough to dispute them. He simply assumes that they are wrong because he is right and leaves it at that. His sections on architecture are masterpieces of arrogant disdain. The only reason he even deigns to mention them is because his 'theory' is correct and therefore they must be wrong. I don't think that I need to explain why that is the wrong attitude to take.
As an example he considers the Parthenon to be a Turkish mosque. The Parthenon is of course a masterpiece of Classical architecture and is lacking the traditional Muslim mosque design. Particularly the dome. Yes the roof was blown off, but they can still tell the structure of the thing from what remained. And what remains is remarkably similar to other temples traditionally labeled as Classical. I'm not kidding when I say he makes this claim based on no evidence either. His logic is that the Ancient Greeks never existed therefore this building cannot be Greek. He says that there was a Turkish tower on the Acropolis and therefore it must have been built there at the same time. His rather poor photo from the 1860s shows the tower right next to the temple of Athena Nike and it seems to be constructed of similar material to what is underneath it. By his reasoning this alone is enough to conclude that it was originally there when the temple was constructed.
His conclusion ignores the similarity of design between classical buildings and assumes that they are all more modern. The fact that there are buildings of similar design and function located throughout Europe is ignored. Why these buildings were all built, covered in Roman inscriptions, and then abandoned is left as something of a mystery. Or it would be if he mentioned it. Also missing is a discussion of artifacts and how some artifacts are found throughout the Mediterranean despite the highly different cultures that exist there. Why do Turkish buildings and artwork differ so much from Italian buildings and artwork if they were all the same a few hundred years ago when they built Classcal temples? And for that matter, why were they the same? Roman armor is especially strange since the only conclusion possible from his 'theory' is that everyone around the Mediterranean adopted Roman armor, sculpted and painted it (but only on Classically styled buildings), and then abandoned it without it ever having an effect on medieval armor and weaponry. This entire section is a blatant insult to the reader's intelligence and his own. And it gets worse.
When mentioning the dating of buildings he neglects to explain the layering. Specifically how one building is often built upon another. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the building on top is the newer building. Yet he would have us discard such obvious facts. Because when Classical buildings are found in a medieval city they are INVARIABLY found on the bottom. That's right, all those Classical buildings being built at the same time as medieval ones somehow all ended up on the bottom while their contemporaneous medieval ones ended up above them. Gosh, isn't that surprising?
Additional 'proof' of his 'theories' comes from a series of drawings throughout his book. On page 28 he shows a medieval document that depicts Cicero and he's wearing medieval clothing. From this he concludes that he was a contemporary. What he doesn't question is how else Cicero was supposed to be portrayed? Everyone in medieval manuscripts looked medieval just as all Chinese paintings reflected contemporary Chinese dress, and Roman drawings reflected contemporary Roman dress, etc. Until relatively recently people didn't really conceive of the past as looking very different from the present. The important point is how the manuscript writer was supposed to know what Romans looked like? Sure there were Roman statues and monuments around but unless the writer was fortunate enough to live in Rome or somewhere with a standing monument they wouldn't have a clue what the Romans dressed like. That's why they depict everything the same way right into the Renaissance. Biblical stories, Classical stories, ethnic stories, they all looked modern at the time when the work was commissioned. If Cicero was truly a contemporary of some medieval scribe because these scribes always reflected the appearance of historical figures accurately then why did those figures' appearances change over the years? In the 16th and 17th Centuries there are plenty of historical paintings which depict the subjects in Renaissance dress. Are we to conclude from this that Cicero and others lived from the 1200s through the 1600s? Similarly on page 44 he shows Babylon depicted as a medieval town without asking how the artist was supposed to know what ancient Babylon looked like. In one last example of many he shows Augustus wearing a crown with a Christian cross on top in a medieval map and thus concludes that Augustus was a Christian and therefore came after Christ. The lengths that this man will go to to enhance his ignorance is amazing.
So there you have it. This sad little pile of pseudohistory manages to waste 586 pages in his first book alone trying to prove something that your average five-year-old would know is nuts. A very sad thing. I'd feel more sorry for a man who's clearly slipped his bolt if it weren't for his unshakeable arrogance and contempt for all other fields. The basic assumption of the book is that mathematics trumps history. Clearly he knows better than all those stupid historians who can't see that they wasted their time in not becoming mathematicians. He actually says that one of his goals is to reclaim chronology for the field of mathematics from which he is convinced the church stole it. His contempt for other fields is staggering. He clearly knows this field better than any artist, art historian, historian, physicist, or even just plain commonsensical human being and has no hesitation in stating it. In doing so he never stoops to their level by debating facts, he simply states them as truths and then ridicules them. This book really doesn't deserve a response, but what the hey, it's a pretty funny read.