Unlike most other minor authors of the period, Velleius Paterculus relates a bit about his own life. He does not say much about his early life, but he came from a wealthy family. He embarked on a military career, during which he fought under the future emperor Tiberius in Germany and Pannonia from 4–8 CE. He was elected quaestor in 8 and appointed consul in 15.
Some scholars have assumed that Velleius, who had often praised Sejanus, a close confidant of Tiberius, was implicated and executed in Sejanus’ conspiracy in 31 CE, but the theory is pure speculation, and there is nothing indicating that Velleius was even involved, let alone killed because of it.
His only work was the Historiae (“Histories”), two books of history covering the end of the Trojan War through the death of Livia, the wife of Augustus, in 29 CE. The book was dedicated to M. Vinicius’ appointment to the consulship in 30 CE.
The book is entirely unremarkable except that it lavishes praise on Tiberius, in contrast to the senatorial depictions of Tiberius as portrayed by authors like Tacitus. Also, it contains some of the earliest examples of the rhetorical excesses that would become a defining characteristic of Imperial Latin.
- Eleanor Cowan ed. 2011. Velleius Paterculus: Making history. Swansea, UK: Classical Press of Wales.