Galilean Fishermen

The Sea of Galilee in Jesus' day was rich in fish and the fishing industry supported village communities around its shores.

When Jesus left Nazareth he chose Capernaum, a fishing/farming town, as his home base. From there he could travel by road or boat to village communities around the Sea. 

The Via Maris, the Way of the Sea, was a major trade route that ran through or past Capernaum. It ran from Syria in the north down through Galilee, down the Mediterranean coast and into Egypt. This meant a constant stream of travellers and merchants were passing through. Capernaum had its own tax station/tollbooth and a Roman military presence. It was an important town.

Sea of Galilee.JPG

The Sea of Galilee was rich with fish and an important source of food for miles around. Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great's sons, and he had total control of fishing on the sea. It brought him a great deal of wealth.

Licenses to fish had to be bought, probably through local tax collectors such as Matthew, a Capernaum tax officer who became one of Jesus' twelve disciples.

Fishermen were peasant workers and fishing was a family business. In order to buy a license families would often work together as a syndicate. This is the picture of the four fishermen presented in the gospels -

they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come

and help them. And they came and filled both the boats....


....and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee,

who were partners with Simon. 

Luke 5  : 7, 10

The fishermen's catches would have been taken into Capernaum and sold to fish processors who would preserve them through drying, salting or pickling.  Fish pastes and a variety of sauces were produced - nothing was left to waste and the end products varied in price and quality. The sauces could be stored in amphorae and transported large distances through trading caravans.

The fishermen's earnings would have been very basic. Most of their surplus had to pay for licences, taxes and loans. Their livelihood was at a subsistence level - enough to keep them fairly healthy. It was the upper elite, the small ruling class that reaped most of the rewards.

Galilean fish.jpg