A solemnly sworn oath was the most binding of all agreements or testimonies. It was thought to be irrevocable, and the oath breaker would automatically be destroyed by the divine power of the oath. As such, oaths were only undertaken in serious cases. In Mesopotamian law courts, defendants had to swear an oath or undergo an ordeal when there was no reliable witness or any other proof of their innocence. In property disputes, litigants could choose between paying a fine or taking the oath; most preferred the latter. Oaths were sworn on emblems of gods, who were thus witnesses and protectors of the agreement. International treaties and vassal treaties were also concluded by oaths; here the parties swore on the deities of their own countries. They often include self-imprecations detailing what dreadful events should befall those who will act contrary to any of the clauses of the treaty.
   See also RELIGION.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

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