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Oaths are either statements of fact or promises calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually their god, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow. Those who conscientiously object to making an oath will often make an affirmation instead. The essence of a divine oath is an invocation of divine agency to be a guarantor of the oath taker's own honesty and integrity in the matter under question. By implication, this invokes divine displeasure if the oath taker fails in their sworn duties. It therefore implies greater care than usual in the act of the performance of one's duty, such as in testimony to the facts of the matter in a court of law.


  • It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.
    • Aeschylus, Frag. 385, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • I will not disgrace my sacred arms
    Nor desert my comrade, wherever
    I am stationed.
    I will fight for things sacred
    And things profane.
    And both alone and with all to help me.
    I will transmit my fatherland not diminished
    But greater and better than before.
    I will obey the ruling magistrates
    Who rule reasonably
    And I will observe the established laws
    And whatever laws in the future
    May be reasonably established.
    any person seek to overturn the laws,
    Both alone and with all to help me,
    I will oppose him.
    I will honor the religion of my fathers.
    call to witness the Gods …
    The borders of my fatherland,
    The wheat, the barley, the vines,
    And the trees of the olive and the fig.
    • Athenian Ephebic Oath (translated by Clarence A. Forbes); reported in Fletcher Harper Swift, The Athenian Ephebic Oath of Allegiance in American Schools and Colleges, University of California Publications in Education (1947), vol. 11, no. 1, p. 4.
  • Oaths were not purpos'd, more than law,
    To keep the Good and Just in awe,
    But to confine the Bad and Sinful,
    Like mortal cattle in a penfold.
  • He that imposes an Oath makes it,
    Not he that for Convenience takes it.
    Then how can any man be said
    To break an oath he never made?
  • I will take my corporal oath on it.
  • Juravi lingua, mentem injuratam gero.
    • I have sworn with my tongue, but my mind is unsworn.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), III. 29.
  • In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.
  • They fix attention, heedless of your pain,
    With oaths like rivets forced into the brain;
    And e'en when sober truth prevails throughout,
    They swear it, till affirmance breeds a doubt.
  • And hast thou sworn on every slight, pretence,
    Till perjuries are common as bad pence,
    While thousands, careless of the damning sin,
    Kiss the book's outside, who ne'er look'd within?
    • William Cowper, Expostulation, line 384; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 563.
  • ἡ γλῶσσ᾽ ὀμώμοχ᾽, ἡ δὲ φρὴν ἀνώμοτος
    • My tongue swore, but my mind is not on oath.
      • Euripides, Hippolytus, (translated by David Kovacs), (428 B.C.), line 612.
  • There is no constitutional or legal requirement that the President shall take the oath of office in the presence of the people, but there is so manifest an appropriateness in the public induction to office of the chief executive officer of the nation that from the beginning of the Government the people, to whose service the official oath consecrates the officer, have been called to witness the solemn ceremonial. The oath taken in the presence of the people becomes a mutual covenant. The officer covenants to serve the whole body of the people by a faithful execution of the laws, so that they may be the unfailing defense and security of those who respect and observe them, and that neither wealth, station, nor the power of combinations shall be able to evade their just penalties or to wrest them from a beneficent public purpose to serve the ends of cruelty or selfishness.
  • I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
  • I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution by any hypercritical rules.
  • You can have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government; while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend" it.
  • He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.
    • Psalms, XV. 4.
  • Trust none;
    For oaths are straws, men's faiths are wafer-cakes,
    And hold-fast is the only dog.
  • I write a woman's oaths in water.
    • Sophocles, Fragment, 694; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 564.
  • I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
    • Oath of Office, United States Code (1982 ed.), vol. 1, title 5, section 3331, p. 538. This oath is taken by any individual, except the president, "elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services".

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