My answer below will adapt part of what I wrote in response to this question.
An answer ... rests on which presuppositions the
reader is willing to make about the book of Daniel. Having at least
one presupposition is inevitable, no matter who you are, and that
affects the way one reads the entire book. My presupposition is this:
Daniel is about kingdoms, and the author names all of the kingdoms
that figure into his visions.
The first six chapters, the stories about Daniel and his fellow Jews
during their activities in the royal courts of foreign kingdoms (aka
the court tales), establish two themes in union together. First, God
controls the rise and fall of kingdoms. (5.21) Second, it is better to
serve this God than submit to pressure or pain to commit idolatry or
other sins. (3.17-18)
By the time these two themes are established after six stories that
illustrate them, the narrative begins to elaborate on the dream from
chapter 2. This elaboration comes in the form of Daniel's dreams and
visions, and an angel interpreting them to Daniel. What we read in
chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 are all ultimately parallel and
complementary descriptions of the same thing: the rise and fall of a
series of kingdoms, the last of which is oppressive toward 'the
saints', before that kingdom is in turn overthrown.
Again, my presupposition is that the author names all of the kingdoms
in the series he describes: the first is Babylon (2.36-38), the second
is a unified Media and Persia (8.20; 10.20a; 11.2a), and the third is
Greece led by Alexander (8.21; 10.20b; 11.2b). To any historian of the
ancient near east, what the author is portraying is very clearly the
series of kingdoms that held power over the Jewish people: Babylon
(605-538 BC), then Media-Persia (538-330 BC), then Alexander's
Greece (330-323 BC).
This is where most presuppositions diverge, so that the fourth kingdom
is thought to be the Roman empire, or the Roman papacy, or Islam, or
The details in Daniel 8 and 11, however, keep the historical context
in the line of kings that followed Alexander. Both chapters mention
how the king of Greece will suddenly die (as Alexander did), with his
empire splitting four ways (an overly simplistic summary, but true
enough). This is the fourth kingdom (323-140 BC). Chapter 11 describes
the feuding of these successor kings, the Diadochi, in great detail,
events that occurred in the fourth, third, and second centuries BC;
primarily the Ptolemies (south of Israel, in Egypt) and the Seleucids
(north of Israel, in Syria).
This brings us to the main question. The culminating events of each
section are complementary details of the same historical events. Each
section even uses several of the same words or phrases: 'little horn'
of the fourth kingdom in chapter 7 and 8, the 'desolation' caused by
transgression/abomination, and halted offerings in chapters 8 and 9
and 10-12, etc.
The descriptions of historical events in chapter 11 are too precise to
be talking about anyone other than Antiochus Epiphanes and the events
of 170-164 BC.
Because Daniel's different prophecies in chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 all seem to converge with the persecution of the Jewish people by Antiochus Epiphanes amidst his desecration of the temple in Jerusalem, this time period is the most likely referent behind 'the time of distress'.
John J. Collins. The Apocalyptic Imagination, p 87,114.
Raymond Hammer. The Book of Daniel, p 4-5.