The in-depth and well researched material in The World of Classical Myth is presented against a background of history, archaeology, social custom, religion, topography, and monuments. Part One, "Orientation," defines mythology and portrays it as an evolving pattern, constantly undergoing revision to keep pace with the evolution of the culture. Hence, mythology offers an archaeology of a people's changing sense of identity.
Part Two, "Transmutations," portrays symbolic forms as eternal and archetypal, never annihilated but merely changing appearance to meet the demands of changing times. Hence, the analysis of the iconography and worship of the twelve Olympian deities paints a picture of their evolution into their Classical identities. Part Three, "The Liminal Hero," describes the two ways of telling a hero's story: either the hero steps forward to found a new world and defeat the past, or he steps back to become the fundament of his present world. Part Four, "Liminal Heroines," delineates the three versions of the heroine's identity — maiden, mother, and witch — and explores the portrayal of women in classical mythology.
Staples and Ruck follow these themes through the course of Classical Myth, incorporating over 100 illustrations and maps integral to the presentation of the material. The book also offers new perspectives on the goddesses and heroines of classical mythology and on the role of women in antiquity.
"It is indeed a cause for some alarm that so important a subject as Greek Mythology has hitherto lacked an adequate primary textbook… Ruck's book may well be the long-awaited remedy. I am impressed not only by his knowledge and organization, but also by his patent concern for student needs." — Professor C. Robert Phillips, III, Lehigh University