312 B.C. - In 323 B.C. Alexander the Great dies. His vast empire is soon split up among his four generals, one of which is Seleucus Nicator. Seleucus begins the Seleucid Empire in 312 B.C. Over time the empire expands to include Judea and Jerusalem.
175 B.C. - An aggressive campaign to force Greek culture (Hellenizing) into the lives of those in Judea is undertaken by Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Jewish religious practices are forbidden.
167 B.C. - Mattathias, a Jewish priest, starts a revolt against the Seleucid overlords of Judea by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias dies about a year later. One of his five sons, Judas, becomes military chief of the rebellion. Judas would later be known as Judas Maccabaeus (or Judah the Maccabee), which translated means "Judah the Hammer." Judas was called "the hammer" as recognition of his ferocity in battle.
164 B.C. - Judas Maccabeus (who will start the Hasmonean dynasty of rule) leads a group of dissidents to victory over Antiochus' military. Judas enters Jerusalem and religiously cleanses the Temple, which had been polluted by the Seleucids. On the twenty-fifth day of Kislev the Temple was re-dedicated. A miracle is believed to have occurred when only one day's supply of oil in the temple's candelabrum lasts for eight days. This event is commemorated each year by the Jews through the holiday known as Hanukkah.
160 B.C. - Judas Maccabeus dies in battle.
147 B.C. - Judea gains its independence.
A line in the sand
It is likely that Antiochus IV Epiphanes gave rise to the common phrase "a line in the sand." The modern definition of this phrase refers to a point beyond which a decision and its consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.
In 168 B.C. Rome sends envoy Gaius Laenas to Egypt to try and prevent a war between Antiochus and the Empire. Antiochus tries to stall for time after being confronted with Rome's demands that he stop his attack on Alexandria. Gaius, aware of Antiochus' delaying tactics, draws in the sand a circle around Antiochus and informs him of the following.
"Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate."
Gaius' phrase leaves little doubt that the Roman Empire would wage war against Antiochus if he did not immediately commit to leaving Egypt. Antiochus rightly decides not to go to war.