The Oath of Many Humiliations


As all Jews know, there’s a vibrant and creative history of all the ways in which we have been persecuted. Contributing to this lovely list is the Oath More Judaico (Latin for “on/by the Jewish custom), a medieval oath Jews were required to take when found in lawsuits with non-Jews. Dating back to Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527-565), the oath was generally intended to frighten, debase, and humiliate the Jews, with explicit punishments for those who faltered during the recitation.

But these weren’t simply passages to be read.

In the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century, the Jew was required to wear a girdle of thorns around his loins, then had to stand in water and swear that if he told a lie he’d be swallowed by the earth.

In 12th-century Arles, the Jew wore a wreath of thorns around his neck, with a thorn branch pulled between his loins. Again with the loins.

And in 15th-century Silesia, the Jew had to stand on a three-legged stool and pay a fine if he fell. If he fell four times, he’d automatically lose the case. The last known court to uphold the oath was in Romania. But worry, it was back in 1902.


» Learn more about the Oath More Judaico
» Check out an actual oath from Frankfurt, 1392
» Refresh your knowledge of Medieval Jewish history
» Read a book on Jews in the Middle Ages

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