"By the Waters of Babylon" is a short story written by Stephen Vincent Benet in 1937. The story is narrated by a man called John who is the son of a priest and the story is set in the future, after the destruction of industrial civilisation. The priests of John's people are the only ones allowed to collect and handle metal collected from the homes of dead people whom they believe to be gods. John tells his father he is going on a spiritual journey but he is actuall going to the homes of the dead, a place which is forbidden to all but the priests. John makes it to the homes of the dead people and realises that the gods were humans whose power overwhelmed their good judgement. John goes back and tells his father what he has seen and his father tells him not to recount his story to anyone else in the tribe. The story ends with John stating that 'we must build again' once he becomes the head priest.
The book was written by the author to explore a post-apocalyptic world where the human population has decreased significantly, leaving only a few behind. The author also wanted to portray what human greed will result in, the eventual destruction of human civilisation.
The book was received well by fans. In fact, elements of the plot and themes of the book were included in the 1970 feature film Beneath the Planet of the Apes.