The Maccabees were a group of Jews that did not want to be ruled by foreign rulers such as Syrian or Roman, so they formed up into bands, and fought against them.
The first Maccabee was a man named Mattityahu. This man lived in a village called Modiin in Central Israel during the rule of the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. The commander of the Syrian army, and some of his soldiers, went to this town, and made an altar to a Greek god there. They tried forcing Mattityahu to offer incense on the altar, but the man refused. A Hellenized Jew approached the altar to offer the incense, but Mattityahu, his brothers, and his sons drew their swords and slew the Jew, and all the Syrians, then they destroyed the altar.
Knowing that the Syrian emperor would become enraged, Mattityahu and all of his compatriots fled to the hills of Judea where they hid, and attacked Syrians.