In the mid-twentieth century, punishment was equated with the rule-based imposition of pain by a legal system. It was principled, proportionate, state-administered and crime-centred. The chapter discusses the long and winding path that led to the modern understanding of punishment, while at the same time retrieving what was left behind – and thus uncovering what had been suppressed, although essential to understand the modern predicament: the dimension of passion, excess, social morality and recognition of status. The steps are traced in philosophical discourse, as well as in institutional practice. As will be the procedure also in the following three chapters, some of the most influential contemporary philosophers are read against the background of available knowledge on the institutional conditions of punishment at the time: the classical democratic period in ancient Athens, the thirteenth-century Catholic Europe, and the early-modern absolutist states. The analysis reveals a space between rational punishment and impassioned revenge. The dual role of anger, as sometimes necessary for justice, and sometimes necessary to suppress; the persisting awareness that punishment is being undermined from within by the very passions it seeks to address; and an older conception of punishment as status restoration, which remained influential until the nineteenth century.