Era stato capitano generale da mar, bailo a Tiro, podestà a Bologna e Padova, conte di Ossero.

Durante il suo dogado ebbe fine il conflitto con Ancona (1281), che era esploso 10 anni prima, e la Repubblica assunse il ruolo di grande potenza durato fino alla morte di Maometto II il Conquistatore (1481).

Sotto Giovanni Dandolo si vararono modifiche drastiche riguardanti l’organizzazione della navigazione e del commercio e nuove regole per sostenere la particolare struttura costituzionale della città che si cristallizzò sino alla fine della Repubblica aristocratica (1297-1797).

Dopo la pace con Ancona, il doge rifiutò di aderire alle richieste di aiuto del papa Martino IV, che voleva scacciare Pietro III d’Aragona impossessatosi della Sicilia dopo i Vespri siciliani (30 marzo 1382), e si attirò l’interdetto (1284) poi ritirato da Onorio IV (dicembre 1285).

Il 31 ottobre 1284 fu coniato il primo ducato veneziano o Zecchino, moneta che diventò una tra le più ricercate nel Mediterraneo.

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