Classical scholar and historian of Hellenistic religion; b. Breslau, April 2, 1861; d. Göttingen, March 3,1931. The major part of his career was spent in his professorships at Strassburg (1893–1911) and at Göttingen (from 1914). At Strassburg the history of Hellenistic religion became his main interest. As a representative of the religio-historical school, he approached all religious phenomena in the ancient world from the viewpoint of comparative religion, and he tended to be extreme in his syncretistic interpretations. In 1904 he published his first major work in the religious field, a study on the Poimandres, the first treatise in the Corpus Hermeticum. He exaggerated, however, the Egyptian influence upon it. His most famous contribution, Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen (Leipzig 1910; 3d ed. 1927), greatly overemphasized the relation of the mystery religions to and their influence on early Christianity. In his Das iranische Erlösungsmysterium (Bonn 1920) he became a champion of Paniranismus, and he continued to maintain this position in his last major work, Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland (Leipzig 1926).
Bibliography: w. schatz, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 8:1155. c. colpe, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 5:951. e. fraenkel et al., Festschrift R. Reitzenstein (Leipzig 1931), with list of his publications. k. prÜmm, Religionsgeschichtliches Handbuch für den Raum der altchristlichen Umwelt (2d ed. Rome 1954) 544–546.