10 Most Famous Thieves in History

There are numerous famous thieves in history and they own their fame to the imagination of folk people who transformed them into legends, mostly after death. Few of the famous thieves that also became heroic outlaws, were really as important, as spiritual, or as handsome as the media and stories has made them. In fact, some are not even real! Here is the list of 10 of the most famous thieves in history:

1. Dismas and Gestas



I bet you have no idea who they are. Yet, they are two most famous thieves in the history of the human kind: They are the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus, one on the right, the other on the left. One of the two outlaws (Dismas) asked for forgiveness and it was granted to him, while the other was a disbeliever and he rejected Jesus, thus ending in hell.

2. Prometheus



According to mythology, Prometheus, the Titan, stole the fire from the gods and brought it to humans, thus  being the one who made it possible for us to eat French fries and steak instead of raw food, for which we should thank him every single day. For this evil deed, he received a harsh punishment, being sentenced by Zeus to be bound to a large stone, while an eagle ate his liver piece by piece every day.

3. Robin Hood



One of the most famous thieves in the world, if not the most famous of all is Robin Hood. Part of the English folklore, his existence was never proved and it is most probably, plain fictional (so disappointing!). The story of Robin Hood and the Merry Men is very old, dating from the 13th century, but it still captures the attention of readers and movies about Robin hood still bring lots of money to producers!

4. Blackbeard (1680-1718)



Now here is a thief who was as famous as Robin but he was also real. Edward Teach, on his real name, was a fierce pirate, known for his scary appearance and for his beard (thus the name). He lived as a proscribe and died fighting against soldiers sent by the governor of Virginia to kill him, when he was in his 30s. Blackbeard was also granted pardon once, but he returned on the sea and to wrongdoing soon after.

5. Jesse James (1847-1882)



This American robber did it all: trains, banks, stagecoaches, nothing was safe when Jesse James was around! Former guerilla fighter during the civil war, he and his brother, Frank, together with the Young borthers formed a band which was feared in the entire South.  However, he remained in history as a heroic bandit and his legacy (though distorted) continues to this day.

6.  “Babyface” Nelson (1908-1934)


Babyface Nelson did not wait to become an adult in order to start stealing cars: By the age of 14, he was already an expert in the field. His nickname was justified by his youthful look and by his small height. Apparently, he is also known as the American citizen who killed the most  FBI agents ever.

7.  Bonnie (1910 -1934) and Clyde (1909-1934)

bonnie and clyde


The young criminal couple is known for having committed bank robberies, murders and all sorts of crimes in their short career. They were famous in life and became a legend after death, both for their crimes and for their sensuality, as their released photographs show the image of a couple who was obviously  in love with each other, posing playfully with their guns . These images,which were found by the police after they were forced to run with nothing but the cloths they were wearing, were pretty shocking, and contributed to the notoriety of the unusual couple.

8. Ma Barker (1873-1935)

ma barker


One of the most unusual, yet famous thieves of all time is Ma Barker. Not only was Ma a fierce criminal herself, but she was the mother of a whole bunch of bandits who formed the Barker gang. At least that is what FBI wants us to believe. Some other sources believe that she was only an old lady who knew about her sons’ criminal robberies but never interfered. Apparently, she did not have the will or the intelligence to do so. Alvin Karpis, the partner of her sons said that “It wouldn’t have occurred to her to get involved in our business, and we always made a point of only discussing our scores when Ma wasn’t around. We’d leave her at home when we were arranging a job, or we’d send her to a movie. Ma saw a lot of movies”. Apparently, the myth of her being the mastermind behind the gang’s crimes was encouraged by the FBI, after having killed her with no reason.

9. Dick Turpin (1705-1739)



When you ask an Englishman to name the most famous English bandit, they all say “Dick Turpin”. He was merely a horse thief first, and then became a murderer as well. His alleged brilliant criminal career was only the fabrication of an author, William Harrison Ainsworth, who created the Dick Turpin’s myth from scratch. In reality, he was nothing more than a common thief and not the dashing gentleman thief, riding on a super-horse called Black Bess and , most significant of all, there was no ride from Essex to York in the course of one night, on this horse.

10. François Villon(1431-1463)



François Villon is a French thief,famous for him being also a poet. Apparently, he was well seen at the court, and the duke of Orleans, an admirer of his poems, stood up for him every time he committed a new burglary. One of the most famous thieves in the history of France, François Villon was pardoned many times, but he could not lead a normal life and commited a new burglary or crime as soon as he was set free. For the last of his crimes, Villon was sentenced to be hanged but once again, he  succeeded to cheat death, was released and only sent into a 10 years exile. Nothing is known of him since then.


photo credits:

photo1, photo2, phtoo3, photo4,photo5, photo6, photo7, photo8, photo9,photo10


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