Below are sections describing the history surrounding Hanukkah from Josephus.  You may read the entire twelfth book here.  Flavius Josephus. The Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Book XII,  “From the Death of Alexander the Great to the Death of Judas Maccabeus.” Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 1960.

Chapter I
Now when Alexander, king of Macedon, had put an end to the dominion of the Persians, and had settled the affairs in Judea after the before mentioned manner, he died. (323 B.C.) And as his government was divided among many, (Four of whom won out.) Antigonus obtained Asia, Seleucus Babylon; and of the other nations which were there, Lysimachus governed the Hellespont, and Cassander possessed Macedonia; as did Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, seize upon Egypt: and while these princes ambitiously strove one against another, everyone for his own principality, it came to pass that there were continual wars, and those lasting wars too; and the cities were sufferers, and lost a great many of their inhabitants in these times of distress, insomuch that all Syria, by the means of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, underwent the reverse of that name of Saviour, which he then had. He also seized upon Jerusalem, and for that end made use of deceit and treachery; for as he came into the city on a Sabbath day, as if he would offer sacrifices he, without any trouble, gained the city, while the Jews did not oppose him, for they did not suspect him to be their enemy; and he gained it thus, because they were free from suspicion of him, and because on that day they were at rest and quietness; and when he had gained it, he ruled over it in a cruel manner.

Chapter V
About this time, upon the death of Onias the high priest, they gave the high priesthood to Jesus his brother; for that son which Onias left [or Onias IV.] was yet but an infant; and, in its proper place, we will inform the reader of all the circumstances that befell this child. But this Jesus, who was the brother of Onias, was deprived of the high priesthood by the king, who was angry with him, and gave it to his younger brother, whose name also was Onias; for Simon had these three sons, to each of which the priesthood came, as we have already informed the reader. {a} This Jesus changed his name to Jason, but Onias was called Menelaus. Now as the former high priest, Jesus, raised a sedition against Menelaus, who was ordained after him, the multitude was divided between them both. And the sons of Tobias took the part of Menelaus, but the greater number of the people assisted Jason; and by that means Menelaus and the sons of Tobias were distressed, and retired to Antiochus, and informed him that they were desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, and to follow the king’s laws, and the Greek way of living. Therefore they desired his permission to build them a gymnasium (From the Greek word, gumnasion, from gumnazein, to exercise naked, from gumnos, naked; the Greek gymnasium was a place where men competed in the nude; therefore it was easy to see who bore the marks of divine ownership on his body in the form of circumcision.) at Jerusalem. {b} And when he had given them permission, they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks. Accordingly, they abandoned all the customs that belonged to their own country, and imitated the practices of the other nations. Now Antiochus, upon the agreeable situation of the affairs of his kingdom, resolved to make an expedition against Egypt, both because he had a desire to gain it, and because he held in contempt the sons of Ptolemy, as now weak, and not yet of abilities to manage affairs of such consequence; so he came with great forces to Pelusium, and circumvented Ptolemy Philometor by treachery, and seized upon Egypt. He then came to the places around Memphis; and when he had taken them, he made haste to Alexandria, in hopes of taking it by siege, and of subduing Ptolemy, who reigned there. But he was driven not only from Alexandria, but out of all Egypt, by the declaration of the Romans, who charged him to leave that country alone; according, as I have elsewhere formerly declared, I will now give a particular account of what concerns this king, how he subdued Judea and the temple; for in my former work I mentioned those things very briefly, and have therefore now thought it necessary to go over that history again, and that with great accuracy. King Antiochus returning out of Egypt {c} for fear of the Romans, made an expedition against the city of Jerusalem; and when he was there, in the hundred and forty-third year of the kingdom of the Seleucids, (169 B.C.) he took the city without fighting, those of his own party opening the gates to him. And when he had gotten possession of Jerusalem, he slew many of the opposite party; and when he had plundered it of a great deal of money, he returned to Antioch. Now it came to pass, after two years, in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of that month which is by us called Chisleu, (or, Kislev; Kislev 25 marks the beginning of Hanukkah.) and by the Macedonians Apellaios, in the hundred and fifty-third Olympiad, (167 B.C.) that the king came up to Jerusalem, and, pretending peace, he got possession of the city by treachery: at which time he spared not so much as those who admitted him into it, on account of the riches that lay in the temple: but, led by his covetous inclination, (for he saw there was in it a great deal of gold, and many ornaments that had been dedicated to it of very great value,) and in order to plunder its wealth, he ventured to break the league he had made. So he left the temple bare, and took away the golden lampstands, and the golden altar [of incense], and table [of showbread], and the altar [of burnt offering]; and did not abstain from even the veils, which were made of fine linen and scarlet. He also emptied it of its secret treasures, and left nothing at all remaining; and by this means cast the Jews into great lamentation, for he forbade them to offer those daily sacrifices which they used to offer to God, according to the Law. And when he had pillaged the whole city, some of the inhabitants he slew, and some he carried captive, together with their wives and children, so that the multitude of those captives that were taken alive amounted to about ten thousand. He also burnt down the finest buildings; and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel in the lower part of the city, {d} for the place was high, and overlooked the temple, on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians. However, in that citadel dwelt the impious and wicked part of the [Jewish] multitude, from whom it proved that the citizens suffered many and sore calamities. And when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the Law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country. He also compelled them to forsake the worship which they paid their own God, and to adore those whom he took to be gods; and made them build temples, and raise idol altars in every city and village, and offer swine upon them every day. He also commanded them not to circumcise their sons, and threatened to punish any that should be found to have transgressed his injunction. He also appointed overseers, who should compel them to do what he commanded. And, indeed, many Jews there were who complied with the king’s commands, either voluntarily, or out of fear of the penalty that was pronounced. But the best men, and those of the noblest souls, did not regard him, but did pay a greater respect to the customs of their country than concern as to the punishment which he threatened to the disobedient; on which account they every day underwent great miseries and bitter torments; for they were whipped with rods, and their bodies were torn to pieces, and were crucified, while they were still alive, and breathed: they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses. And if there were any sacred books of the Law found, it was destroyed, and those with whom they were found miserably perished also.

Chapter VI
Now at this time there was one whose name was Mattathias, who dwelt at Modin, the son of John, the son of Simeon, the son of Asamoneus, a priest of the order of Joarib, and a citizen of Jerusalem. He had five sons: John, who was called Gaddis, and Simon, who was called Matthias, and Judas, who was called Maccabeus, {a} and Eleazar, who was called Auran, and Jonathan, who was called Apphus. Now this Mattathias lamented to his children the sad state of their affairs, and the ravage made in the city, and the plundering of the temple, and the calamities the multitude were under; and he told them that it was better for them to die for the laws of their country, than to live so ingloriously as they then did. But when those who were appointed by the king were come to Modin, that they might compel the Jews to do what they were commanded, and to enjoin those who were there to offer sacrifice, as the king had commanded, they desired that Mattathias, a person of the greatest character among them, both on other accounts, and particularly on account of such a numerous and so deserving a family of children, would begin the sacrifice because his fellow citizens would follow his example, and because such a procedure would make him honoured by the king. But Mattathias said he would not do it; and that if all the other nations would obey the commands of Antiochus, either out of fear, or to please him, yet would not he nor his sons leave the religious worship of their country. But as soon as he had ended his speech, there came one of the Jews into the midst of them, and sacrificed, as Antiochus had commanded. At which Mattathias had great indignation, and ran upon him violently, with his sons, who had swords with them, and slew both the man himself who sacrificed, and Apelles the king’s general, who compelled them to sacrifice, with a few of his soldiers. He also overthrew the idol altar, and cried out, “If,” said he, “anyone be zealous for the laws of his country, and for the worship of God, let him follow me.” And when he had said this, he made haste into the desert with his sons, and left all his substance in the village. Many others did the same also, and fled with their children and wives into the desert, and dwelt in caves. But when the king’s generals heard this, they took all the forces they then had in the citadel at Jerusalem, and pursued the Jews into the desert; and when they had overtaken them, they in the first place endeavoured to persuade them to repent, and to choose what was most for their advantage, and not put them to the necessity of using them according to the law of war; but when they would not comply with their persuasions, but continued to be of a different mind, they fought against them on the Sabbath day, and they burnt them as they were in the caves, without resistance, and without so much as plugging up the entrances of the caves. And they refused to defend themselves on that day, because they were not willing to break in upon the honour they owed the Sabbath, even in such distresses; for our Law requires that we rest upon that day. There were about a thousand, with their wives and children, who were smothered and died in these caves; but many of those who escaped joined themselves to Mattathias, and appointed him to be their ruler, who taught them to fight, even on the Sabbath day; and told them, that unless they would do so, they would become their own enemies, by observing the Law [so rigorously], while their adversaries would still assault them on this day, and they would not then defend themselves; and that nothing could then hinder but they must all perish without fighting. This speech persuaded them. And this rule continues among us to this day, that if there be a necessity, we may fight on Sabbath days. So Mattathias got a great army about him, and overthrew their idol altars, and slew those who broke the laws, even all that he could get under his power; for many of them were dispersed among the nations around them for fear of him. He also commanded that those boys which were not yet circumcised should be circumcised now; and he drove those away that were appointed to hinder their circumcision.

Chapter VII
When Apollonius, the general of the Samaritan forces, heard this, he took his army, and made haste to go against Judas, who met him, and joined battle with him, and beat him, and slew many of his men, and among them Apollonius himself their general, whose sword being that which he happened then to wear, he seized upon, and kept for himself; but he wounded more than he slew, and took a great deal of prey from the enemy’s camp, and went his way; but when Seron, who was general of the army of Coelesyria, heard that many had joined themselves to Judas, and that he had about him an army sufficient for fighting, and for making war, he determined to make an expedition against him, thinking it became him to endeavour to punish those who transgressed the king’s injunctions . . .

(The Temple Cleansed by Judas Maccabaeus and Hanukkah Instituted, Kislev 25, 164 B.C.)

When therefore, the generals of Antiochus’ armies had been beaten so often, Judas assembled the people together, and told them, that after these many victories which God had given them, they ought to go up to Jerusalem, and purify the temple, and offer the appointed sacrifices. But as soon as he, with the whole multitude, was come to Jerusalem, and found the temple deserted, and its gates burnt down, and plants growing in the temple of their own accord, on account of its desertion, he and those who were with him began to lament, and were quite confounded at the sight of the temple; so he chose out some of his soldiers, and gave them order to fight against those guards that were in the citadel, until he should have purified the temple. When, therefore, he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the lampstand, the table [of showbread], and the altar [of incense], which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them. He also took down the altar [of burnt offering], and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month of Chisleu, which the Macedonians call Apellaios, they lit the lamps that were on the lampstand, and offered incense upon the altar [of incense], and laid the loaves upon the table [of showbread], and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar [of burnt offering]. Now it so happened, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had stopped, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years’ time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Apellaios, and on the hundred fifty and third Olympiad: (167 B.C.) but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month of Apellaios, on the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth Olympiad. (164 B.C.) And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; (575 B.C.) for he declared that the Macedonians would stop that worship [for some time]. Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. (See John 10:22, 23 for the account of Jesus being in the Temple during Hanukkah.) I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls around the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein.

You may read the entire twelfth book here.

Bob Vincent