Antiochus was a madman who attempted to destroy the Jews and all worship of the true God. He had any Jew who would not worship the Greek idols (see Images and Idols) put to death. Praying to God, or observing the Sabbath according to The Fourth of The Ten Commandments (see also The Ten Commandments Now? and Sun Worship) were also capital offenses. Mothers found with circumcised infants, according to Jewish law, were killed along with the child. He had many scrolls of the Holy Scriptures burned, although many were very likely saved by being hidden out in the wilderness in a manner similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The greatest outrage committed by Antiochus occurred in 167 B.C. when he entered The Temple of God (see Temples) in Jerusalem, erected an altar to the pagan god Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on it. That desecration, dated as the 25th of Kislev according to the Bible Calendar, triggered a rebellion by a group of Jews led by the priest Mattathias and his five sons. When Mattathias died in 166 B.C., the leadership went to his son Judas, who was nicknamed "the Maccabee" which means "the hammer." The name Maccabee was also used for other members of the family who took part in the uprising.
With bravery, military genius, and no doubt much help from God, the Maccabees achieved an amazing series of victories through the land. By 164 B.C. they gained control of The Temple and rededicated it to The God of Israel. Their eventual victory and purification of The Temple is today commemorated by Jews with the annual Festival of Hanukkah.
The Maccabean Period, also called the Hasmonean Period, or Period of Independence, lasted from 167 to 63 B.C. during which the land was ruled by leaders from the family of Judas Maccabeus. It ended when the Romans took control of the country in 63 B.C. (see Ancient Empires - Rome)
Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ observe Hanukkah (also known as The Feast of Dedication) in Jerusalem?