Summary: For Daniel it was prophecy; but for us it is history.
Daniel is at pains to demonstrate the starting point for this history: it is the first year of Darius the Mede when he, even Daniel himself prophesied (Daniel 11:1).
There would be three more kings of Persia, and the fourth, (Xerxes I) would attack but fail to conquer Greece (Daniel 11:2).
The remaining Persian kings are omitted, bringing us to the mighty king of Greece 150 years later, Alexander the Great (Daniel 11:3).
At the death of Alexander his kingdom was broken up and divided between his four generals (Daniel 11:4).
1. Seleucus was based in Syria (the North).
2. Cassander took over Macedonia (Greece).
3. Lysimachus took Thracia (between Greece and Turkey).
4. Ptolemy ruled over Egypt (the South).
Ptolemy became powerful in the South, Egypt. However, the power of Seleucus was greater in the North, where his Empire stretched from Syria to India (Daniel 11:5).
Later, Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II of Egypt, was given in a political marriage to Antiochus II of Syria (Daniel 11:6). When her father died, her husband put her away. Her husband was murdered and she fled with her children to Daphne, where she was murdered.
Berenice's brother, Ptolemy III the new king of Egypt came with an army against the North, and prevailed (Daniel 11:7-8).
Justin tells us that the new king of the North, Seleucus II fitted out a great fleet to take vengeance on his enemy, but it was destroyed by a violent storm. Then he raised an army to recover his territories but was defeated and fled in great terror (Daniel 11:9).
Likewise his sons, the next two kings of the North stirred up strife (Daniel 11:10).
Ptolemy IV of Egypt defeated the much larger army of Antiochus III at the battle of Raphia in 217 BC (Daniel 11:11).
However, the Egyptians failed to press home their advantage (Daniel 11:12).
Fourteen years later an army of some 300,000 approached Egypt from the North (Daniel 11:13).
Egypt was being ruled by the regents of a 5 year old boy. All the surrounding nations were against him, as was Philip of Macedon. Many people in his own land were in a state of rebellion (Daniel 11:14).
The Maccabees identified themselves with the “violent men” of Daniel's people who stood against the king of the South (Daniel 11:14). They paid themselves no compliment: the word means literally “sons of breakage” which probably signifies brigands or robbers. Whoever Daniel meant, they would exalt themselves in order to pre-empt the fulfilment of the vision, and, significantly, fail in their purpose. The Egyptian general Scopas seized control of Judea.
Then the king of the North, Antiochus III, came into the Holy Land and set up mounds against the walled cities. Scopas surrendered at Sidon with 10,000 men (Daniel 11:15).
The Egyptians were unable to withstand their enemy, and scattered in disarray (Daniel 11:16). The Seleucid king Antiochus III took control of the Holy Land.
The word translated “upright ones” in Daniel 11:17 might indicate that the king of the North had Jews with him, but may also carry the meaning that he sought to bring equitable terms. The intention was to gain control of the whole of Egypt, but he would use the subterfuge of a marriage alliance first, giving his daughter Cleopatra I to Ptolemy III. She chose instead to defy her father, and stand with her Egyptian husband.
After this the king of the North built a Navy to defy the might of Rome, and took control of many of the islands of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas (Daniel 11:18). However, he was humbled by the Roman general Lucius.
In 190 BC Antiochus III returned home to Syria. There he was assassinated whilst trying to plunder a pagan temple (Daniel 11:19).
The next king of the North, Seleucus IV, sought to raise taxes in the Holy Land in order to pay back repartitions to the Romans for his father's wars (Daniel 11:20). He ordered that the Temple treasury in Jerusalem should be raided. He was assassinated soon after.
The next Seleucid king, Antiochus IV had been a hostage in Rome whilst the taxes were collected. He took the kingdom by intrigue, pretending that he did so on behalf of his nephew Demetrius (Daniel 11:21).
Antiochus IV used foreign assistance to seize power, and broke all opposition. He broke his flattering covenant with the rightful prince, Demetrius (Daniel 11:22).
Antiochus IV made a league with another nephew, the king of Egypt, Ptolemy VI, the son of his sister Cleopatra I. Meantime he deceitfully moved a small but powerful force through Syria and Judea with a view to seizing Egypt (Daniel 11:23).
One of his tricks was to bribe his potential enemies with military spoil, until the time was right for a military strike (Daniel 11:24).