The Oath as an Element of Juridical Culture in Early-Seventeenth-Century Courts of Samogitia

  • Darius Vilimas
Keywords: juridical culture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, oath, manuscript books of Samogitian castle and land courts, Third Statute of Lithuania, nobles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, history of Samogitia


The work is focused on the use of the oath in Samogitian land and castle court books at the beginning of seventeenth century. The oath was administered quite often and it was the fastest way to resolve one instance of litigation or another. According to the submitted examples of seventeenth-century court books, oaths were incriminating or exculpatory. Incriminating oaths (those of the plaintiff party) were more frequent. Administering an oath did not necessarily mean it would be fulfilled as they often ended in a reconciliation or postponement. Reconciliation under oath did not always mean that the defendant would be exempt from financial sanctions, which courts often imposed even after a formal conciliation. Partial oaths were also practiced: the oath would be divided into several segments and a person would swear to one segment of a charge and not to another. The postponement or withholding of oaths resulted not only from formal reasons but also from the desire not to err in hasty administration of justice.