The name given in later times to the Asmonæans, a family of Jewish patriots, who headed a religious revolt in the reign of Antiochus IV., 168-161 b. c., which led to a period of freedom for Israel.
The name of two ancient historical books, which give accounts of Jewish affairs in or about the time of the Maccabean princes, and which are received as canonical books in the Roman Catholic Church, but are included in the Apocrypha by Protestants. Also applied to three books, two of which are found in some MSS. of the Septuagint.
Judas Maccabeus and his relatives who organized a successful revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, King of Syria (ca. 150 BCE). The war is called the Maccabean revolt, and is discussed in the two deutero-canonical books 1-2 Maccabees. The revolt liberated the people of Israel from foreign domination for the first time since the Babylonian Exile. The Maccabean household established a dynasty (also called the Hasmonean dynasty) through the choice of kings and through the appointment of new priests to serve in the Jerusalem Temple. Their selection of priests did not fit with the Torah regulations, which angered a number of their contemporaries enough that they fled the city to live in the Judean desert until two messiahs should come to reestablish the kingship and cleanse the Temple; we call these dissenters the " Essenes." The Maccabean Dynasty ruled for nearly a century, until the conquest of Jerusalem by the Roman General Pompey.