Corbulo was born in Italy, in a senatorial family. His father was his namesake and his mother was a Vistilia. The early career of Corbulo is unknown but he was consul with Caligula in 40. The emperor was his brother-in-law, due to his marriage with Milonia Caesonia, Corbulo's half sister. After Caligula's assassination, Corbulo's career went into a halt until, in 47, emperor Claudius makes him commander of the Germania Inferior armies, with base camp in modern Cologne. The new assignment was a difficult one and Corbulo had to deal with major rebellions and violence outbreaks coming from Cherusci and Chauci Germanic tribes. During his stay in Germania, the general ordered the construction of a canal between the rivers Rhine and Maas. This engineering work is still visible today and is named ''Corbulus' canal.
Corbulo returned to Rome, where he stayed until 52, when he was named governor of the Asia province. Following Claudius' death in 54, the new emperor Nero sent him to the eastern provinces to deal with the Armenian question. The Parthian empire was again giving trouble in the eastern border and the control of this independent state was crucial. The conflict was long and had complex political issues, but was solved in early 67 by peaceful means. Nevertheless, Corbulo's military actions were instrumental for the resolution and the general became revered as an hero by his legions. Back in Rome, Nero's popularity was going down every day. The emperor had developed a paranoia that caused him to assassinate or execute many pre-eminent citizens, including members of his own family. Corbulo was another victim of this environment of terror. That same year, he received an order to commit suicide, which he obeyed.