I don't have time for a proper post on the Maccabees, so a re-post will have to suffice:
At the end of the Babylonian exile (some time after the destruction of the Babylonian Empire) the Jews had been allowed to return to their homes under Persian rule. When Alexander the Great defeated Darius II, the Jews lived free of molestation under his rule and for the most part continued to do so under the Macedonian successor kingdom of the Seleucids.
As the power of the Seleucid state later waned, a king named Antiochus Epiphanes decided that, to solidify the power of the weakening kingdom, he needed to end the ethnic, religious, and cultural identities of hitherto somewhat autonomous peoples. The Jews, although they had absorbed a number of Hellenistic cultural practices but remained quite distinct with their ancient religion, were targeted for forced acceptance of all religious practices of the Macedonian rulers.
"A brief Jewish rebellion only hardened his views and led him to outlaw central tenets ofJudaism such as the Sabbath and circumcision, and defile the holy Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus, allowing the sacrifice of pigs, and opening the shrine to non-Jews."
It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and cords, to partake of unlawful swine's flesh.
 One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, "What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers."
The king fell into a rage, and gave orders that pans and caldrons be heated.
 These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on.
 When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying,
 "The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song which bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, `And he will have compassion on his servants.'"
After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, "Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?"
 He replied in the language of his fathers, and said to them, "No." Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done.
 And when he was at his last breath, he said, "You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws."
After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands,
 and said nobly, "I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again."
 As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man's spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.
When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way.
 And when he was near death, he said, "One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!"
Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him.
 But he looked at the king, and said, "Because you have authority among men, mortal though you are, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people.
 Keep on, and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants!"
After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, "Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore astounding things have happened.
 But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!"
The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord.
 She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them,
 "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you.
 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws."
Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs.
 Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself.
 After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son.
 But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you.
 I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.
 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."
While she was still speaking, the young man said, "What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king's command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our fathers through Moses.............
 So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord.
Last of all, the mother died, after her sons."
The revolt led by Judas Maccabeus (The Hammer) was shockingly successful given the power of Macedonian/Hellenistic armies of that time. Their guerrilla tactics were so successful that the king sent ever larger forces against the Jews. These were dealt crippling defeats.
The war lasted around ten years, culminating with Jewish independence.