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There are known fraternal organizations which existed as far back as ancient Greece and in the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome.

Analogous institutions developed in the late medieval period called confraternities, which were lay organizations allied to the Catholic Church.

There is almost always an explicit goal of mutual support, and while there have been fraternal orders for the well-off there have also been many fraternities for those in the lower ranks of society, especially for national or religious minorities.

Trade unions also grew out of fraternities such as the Knights of Labor.

On college campuses, fraternities may be divided into groups: social, service, professional, and honorary.

There are mixed male and female fraternities and fraternal orders, as well as wholly female religious orders and societies, or sororities.

Among guilds that became prosperous are the Freemasons, Odd Fellows and Foresters.

By joining a fraternity, networking becomes a key factor to pushing a member towards success.

Later, Elizabeth I appropriated apprenticeships away from guilds, and by the end of her reign most guilds had been suppressed.

The suppression of these trade guilds removed an important form of social and financial support from ordinary men and women.