FACTION (through the French, from Lat. factio, a company of persons combined for action, facere, to do; from the other French derivative façon comes "fashion"), a term, used especially with an opprobrious meaning, for a body of partisans who put their party aims and interests above those of the state or public, and employ unscrupulous or questionable means; it is thus a common term of reciprocal abuse between parties. In the history of the Roman and Later Roman empires the factions (factiones) of the circus and hippodrome, at Rome and Constantinople, played a prominent part in politics. The factiones were properly the four companies into which the charioteers were divided, and distinguished by the colours they wore. Originally at Rome there were only two, white (albata) and red (russata), when each race was open to two chariots only; on the increase to four, the green (prasina) and blue (veneta) were added. At Constantinople the last two absorbed the red and white factions.
For a brilliant description of the factions at Constantinople under Justinian, and the part they played in the celebrated Nika riot in January 532, see Gibbon's Decline and Fall, ch. xl.; and J.B. Bury's Appendix 10 in vol. iv. of his edition (1898), for a discussion of the relationship between the factiones and the demes of Constantinople.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)