The Place of the Gods was a great city of great "magic" that existed generations ago and that John's people, the "People of the Hills," now revere as sacred. The name of this place, which John's people are forbidden to speak, is withheld until the end of the story. The Place of the Gods was--before the Great Burning--a place of mighty bridges, tall towers and statues to great gods named "ASHING," "Lincoln and Biltmore and Moses." The Place of the Gods was eight days' journey to the east of the hills, through the forest and to the "great river," from where the Place of the Gods lay in sight to the south. The Place of the Gods was "newyork," or New York, and its great river was the Ou-dis-sun, or the Hudson River.
There was the great river below [the cliff], like a giant in the sun. It is very long, very wide. ... Its name is Ou-dis-sun, the Sacred, the Long. No man of my tribe had seen it, not even my father, the priest.
Then I raised my eyes and looked south. It was there, the Place of the Gods.
The Place of the Gods was a place where great knowledge, learning and skill was accumulated. It was a place that could bring whatever was wanted from "the other side of the world." It was a place that turned night into day, where no one slept "with the sun," and where "their chariots blocked the streets." It was a place where, "with wisdom beyond wisdom," "not all that they did was well done." In the end, it became a place where "gods war with gods" and where fire and poison mist came "falling out of the sky." Ultimately, it was a place that men built, "not gods or demons. They were men," a significant point Benét is making.
They ran about like ants in the streets of their city--poor gods, poor gods! Then the towers began to fall. A few escaped--yes, a few. The legends tell it. ... I saw the last of them die. It was darkness over the broken city and I wept.