Frequently mentioned in the gospels, Capernaum was apparently the closest to a permanent base that Jesus had during the Galilean ministry; it is referred to simply as ‘his own city’ (Matt. 9:1; Mark 2:1). Much of the town that he knew has been brought to light again, together with a primitive house-church later transformed into an octagonal building. The most famous synagogue of Galilee has been partially restored.
Though traces of occupation in the C13 BC were discovered, the history of the town begins in the C2 BC. When Herod’s kingdom was divided after his death, it fell to the lot of Herod Antipas. As the first town encountered by travelers coming from his brother Philip’s territory on the other side of the Jordan, it was equipped with a customs office (Matt. 9:9) and a small garrison under a centurion. The poverty of the inhabitants can be inferred from the fact that the latter, a Gentile, had to build them a synagogue (Luke 7:5). At this period the place had little depth and stretched along the lake-front from some 300 m. No unique advantages induced Jesus to settle there; it offered nothing that could not be found in the other lakeside towns. He probably chose it because his first converts, the fishermen Peter and Andrew, lived there (Mark 1:21, 29). This initial success was not maintained; Jesus’ preaching had no more impact here (Luke 10: 23-4) than it had at Nazareth. None the less, some of his first converts either lived or settled down there, because a continuing Christian presence is attested both archeologically and textually.
Source: The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy- O’Connor