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Holiday Central > Chanukah > The Story of Chanukah > Who are the Maccabees?
Chanukah: Who Are the Maccabees?
By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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Mattithias – Father of the five Maccabee brothers and Temple kohen-priest fled to Modin to escape Greek influence and pressure in Jerusalem. He began the Chanukah revolt when Mattithias (known in Hebrew as Matityahu) killed a Hellenist Jew sacrificed a pig to a pagan god at the command of a Greek soldier. Before he fled to the hills with his sons to escape Greek revenge, he called likeminded Jews to join him in a fight against Greek oppression. He died soon after the revolt began.

Judah Maccabee – Son of Mattithias who took over the fight once his father died. He specialized in guerilla tactics and ambushes. Known in Greek as Judah Maccabeus, his name is recalled to represent the entire Jewish fighting force that rose up against the Syrian-Greek troops.

Elazar – Brother of Judah who was killed in battle when an elephant, then a state-of-the-art war vehicle, crushed him.

Shimon, Yonatan, and Yochanon – Three other sons of Mattithias who joined in the battle.

Post-Miracle Maccabees
The Maccabees went on to become heads of state. In an unprecedented move, the Hasmonean Maccabee family donned the high priest’s garments and held the royal scepter. At first the Hasmonean rulers were righteous, and Judea rejoiced in its restored autonomy. A handful of successions later, the royal Hasmonean line was waylaid by internecine fighting, assassination, and internal strife. They lived in thrall to Greek powers and later generations admired the same Helenist ideals the original Maccabees struggled against.

The corrupted Hasmonean dynasty declined in power and public reverence, and their rule ended when Herod, a Hasmonean son-in-law, seized power and killed off the rest of the Hasmonean line.

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