Were There Gangs in Ancient Times?

Gangs have been a part of human history for centuries. From organized crime syndicates to street gangs, their presence has been felt in almost every society.

But were there gangs in ancient times? The answer may surprise you.

What is a Gang?

Before we delve into whether gangs existed in ancient times, let’s first define what a gang is. A gang is a group of people who come together for a common purpose. This purpose can be anything from protection to criminal activities.

Ancient Gangs

Now that we know what a gang is, let’s explore whether they existed in ancient times. The truth is that gangs have been around for as long as civilization itself.

In ancient Rome, there were various street gangs known as ‘factions’. These factions were primarily formed around chariot racing teams and would often engage in violent clashes with each other.

Similarly, in ancient Greece, there were groups known as ‘thiasoi’ or ‘eranoi’. These groups were formed around religious festivals and would often engage in drunken revelry and rowdy behavior.

In China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), there were secret societies known as ‘hongmen’ that operated outside the law. These societies would engage in criminal activities such as piracy and smuggling.

Purpose of Ancient Gangs

Like modern-day gangs, ancient gangs also had specific purposes. Some of these purposes included:

  • Protection against rival groups
  • Control over a specific territory or market
  • Criminal activities such as theft and smuggling
  • Social or religious gatherings

The Legacy of Ancient Gangs

The existence of gangs in ancient times highlights the fact that certain societal issues such as competition, poverty, and discrimination have been around for centuries. It also shows that humans have always sought to band together with others who share common goals and interests.

The legacy of ancient gangs can still be felt today. Many modern-day gangs trace their roots back to these ancient groups. Additionally, the criminal activities of these ancient gangs have helped shape the laws and law enforcement practices of today.


In conclusion, gangs have been a part of human history for thousands of years. From ancient Rome to China, these groups have existed for various reasons and purposes. While the specific activities and behaviors of these gangs may differ from those of modern-day gangs, their existence highlights the fact that certain societal issues are universal and timeless.