Figlio del 19° doge Pietro Candiano II (932-939), che le aveva tentate tutte pur di lasciargli il Dogado in eredità, ma non vi era riuscito.

Il primo atto del nuovo doge fu una spedizione punitiva contro il patriarca di Aquileia che aveva fatto una scorreria a Grado, ma l’episodio che gli diede più lustro fu la liberazione delle fanciulle rapite dai pirati narentani durante la Festa dei matrimoni, poi diventata Festa delle Marie.

Nel 958 Pietro Candiano IV, bramoso di potere, si schierò contro il padre: la città si spaccò in due, da una parte i seguaci del doge (filobizantino) e dall’altra i seguaci del figlio (che parteggiava per la terraferma e i latifondisti) e in una sola giornata per le strade di Venezia furono impiccati 132 cospiratori. Tra questi  c’era il figlio del doge, Pietro IV, appunto, che si rifugiò a Ravenna presso il marchese Guido. Qui ricevette anche l’appoggio del re d’Italia Berengario II (950-961) e la possibilità di disporre di una flotta di sei navi da guerra per attaccare il padre (959), il quale intanto moriva di crepacuore e veniva sepolto a S. Ilario.

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