If a dictionary defines one form of a hero as referring to a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life, then the heroes of Greek Mythology do not qualify. The Greeks define a tragic hero differently. Oedipus, Antigone, and Hecuba all fit this description of a tragic hero. Their qualities were exhibited throughout the whole of their respective stories.
There are certain distinguishing characteristics that many Greek heroes have in common. Others are simply exceptions, and have their own unique qualities. Antigone is the biggest exception. Usually it is found that most Greek heroes do not die at the end. Most often they live with the burden of their consequences. They learn a lesson the hard way without taking their own lives the way Antigone did. Hecuba reinforces her belief of living when she says, "I tell you death is a nothingness; however painful life is it is better than death: it has hope. I prefer life at its worst to death at its best." (41).
Another characteristic of a tragic Greek is their high position. These three, even though Hecuba's through marriage, all have a very high status in society. The reason that most Greek heroes are of a high status is because they have a lot to lose and all tragic Greek heroes have to lose something; sometimes even everything. .
The Greek hero battles fate with excessive pride and intelligence yet follows his fate, making some serious mistakes. No Greek hero knows fate like King Oedipus. He was destined by fate to kill his father then marry his mother and this is exactly what ended up happening to him. Although he tried to run away from this fate, he was unable to. There had been nothing he could do about it and he was forced to suffer from his actions. "To be wise is to suffer", (34). This describes the King in a sense, because even though he tried to be wise and avoid a tragedy, he was not able to and therefore suffered.