Although the 'oath of office' is an ancient, widely known and highly respected concept it is a rarely studied phenomenon, and is often even entirely absent from discussions on ethics in the public setting. But why is there an oath of office? Are there different kinds of oaths? What makes an oath special? What is its function, and under what conditions is an oath effective? This project will be comparative over time and place and interdisciplinary in approach. The aim is to bring together and reflect upon the fragmented insight ranging from disciplines such as history, ethics, logic, law, sociology, politics, philosophy, psychology, as well as anthropology and theology. A possible integrative concept for this conglomerate of perspectives is provided by the concept of a social symbol as a substantive social phenomenon.