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6. With regard to oaths,1 parties either offer to take an oath themselves, or refuse to accept the oath of their opponent, demand that their opponent should take an oath or refuse to comply with a similar demand when proffered to themselves. To offer to take an oath unconditionally without demanding that one's opponent should likewise take an oath is as a rule a sign of bad faith. [2] If, however, anyone should take this course, he will defend his action by appealing to the blamelessness of his life [p. 167] as rendering perjury on his part incredible, or by the solemn nature of the oath, with regard to which he will win all the greater credence, if without the least show of eagerness to take the oath he makes it clear that he does not shrink from so solemn a duty. Or again, if the case is such as to make this possible, he will rely on the trivial nature of the point in dispute to win belief, on the ground that he would not incur the risk of the divine displeasure when so little is at stake. Or, finally, he may in addition to the other means which he employs to win his case offer to take an oath as a culminating proof of a clear conscience. [3] The man who refuses to accept his opponent's offer to take an oath, will allege that the inequality of their respective conditions are not the same for both parties and will point out that many persons are not in the least afraid of committing perjury, even philosophers having been found to deny that the gods intervene in human affairs; and further that he who is ready to take an oath without being asked to do so, is really proposing to pass sentence on his own case and to show what an easy and trivial thing he thinks the oath which he offers to take. [4] On the other hand the man who proposes to put his opponent on oath appears to act with moderation, since he is making his adversary a judge in his own case, while he frees the actual judge from the burden of coming to a decision, since the latter would assuredly prefer to rest on another man's oath than on his own. [5] This fact makes the refusal to take an oath all the more difficult, unless indeed the affair in question be of such a nature that it cannot be supposed that the facts are known to the person asked to take the oath. Failing this excuse, there [p. 169] is only one course open to him: he must say that his opponent is trying to excite a prejudice against him and is endeavouring to give the impression that he has real ground for complaint though he is not in a position to win his case; consequently, though a dishonest man would eagerly have availed himself of the proposal, he prefers to prove the truth of his statements rather than leave a doubt in anyone's mind as to whether he has committed perjury or no. [6] But in my young days advocates grown old in pleading used to lay it down as a rule that we should never be in a hurry to propose that our opponent should take an oath, just as we should never allow him the choice of a judge2 nor select our judge from among the supporters of the opposite side: for if it is regarded as a disgrace to such a supporter3 to say anything against his client, it is surely a still worse disgrace that he should do anything that will harm his client's case.

1 An oath might be taken by one of the parties as an alternative to evidence. In court such an oath might be taken only on the proposal of the adversary; the litigant might not swear on his own initiative, although an oath might be taken voluntarily before the case came into court. The matter of the oath rested with the profferer, and the taking of such a proffered oath meant victory for the swearer.

2 The choice of the single iudex in civil cases rested with the plaintiff, though the defendant had the right to refuse the person proposed.

3 Not an actual advocate, but a supporter and adviser on points of law.

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