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NICANOR°, one of the Syrian officers sent by *Lysias to fight against Judah Maccabee. He is mentioned at length in I and II Maccabees, both passages giving an account of the battle of Emmaus in which Nicanor and Gorgias were defeated by Judah. There is also mention of a Syrian commander called Nicanor who played an important role in the war against Judah in the time of Demetrius. He attempted to approach Judah peacefully or, as another version has it, to capture him by deceit. At all events he was unsuccessful. Enraged that Judah had eluded him once and later defeated him in a battle near Kefar Shalem, he threatened to wreak his vengeance on the Temple and its priests. With the arrival of reinforcements from Syria, Nicanor was once more in a position to confront Judah. In 161 B.C.E. a decisive battle was fought at Bet Horon, but Judah once again triumphed and Nicanor was slain. This was Judah's last military victory. It is uncertain whether the Nicanor who took part in the battle of Emmaus is to be identified with the Nicanor sent by Demetrius against Judah Maccabee, but it is probable that they were two separate persons. The downfall of Nicanor, who had reviled and insulted the Temple, brought joy to the people and the day of triumph, the 13th of Adar, was established as an annual festival.


Meg. Ta'an. 346; I Macc. 3:38; 7:27–50; II Macc. 8:9ff., 14–15; Jos., Ant., 12:402–5; Polybius, 31:14, 4; Derenbourg, Hist, 63f.; Schuerer, Hist, 31, 40ff.; F.M. Abel, Les Livres des Maccabées (1949), 488.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.