Balista was Praetorian prefect under the Macriani, and possibly also under Valerian, whom he accompanied to the East. After the defeat and capture of that emperor, when the Persians had penetrated into Cilicia, a body of Roman troops rallied and placed themselves under the command of the magister equitum Balista. Led by him, they raised the siege of Pompeiopolis, cut off numbers of the enemy who were straggling in disorderly confidence over the face of the country, and retook a vast quantity of plunder.
With the army deep in enemy territory and the lawful emperor (Gallienus) far in the West, Balista allied with Macrianus Major, controller of the treasure of the army, and supported the election of Macrianus Minor and Quietus to the purple. He stayed with Quietus in the East, while the Macriani, father and son, moved with the army in the West, only to be crushed by generals loyal to Gallienus in Thrace, and killed by their own soldiers.
His career after the destruction of the Macriani is very obscure. According to one account, he retired to an estate near Daphne; according to another, he assumed the purple, and maintained a precarious dominion over a portion of Syria and the adjacent provinces for three years. This assertion is however based on no good foundation, resting as it does on the authority of certain medals now universally recognised as spurious, and on the hesitating testimony of Trebellius Pollio, who acknowledges that, even at the time when he wrote, the statements regarding this matter were doubtful and contradictory. Neither the time nor manner of Balista's death can be ascertained with certainty, but it is believed to have happened about 264, and to have been contrived by Odaenathus.