He was known as a writer of elegies and epigrams, and his contemporaries believed him capable of great things in epic. The author of the panegyric on Messalla declares Rufus to be the only poet fitted to be the great man's Homer.
Rufus did not, however, confine himself to poetry. He discussed grammatical questions by correspondence, translated the rhetorical manual of his teacher Apollodorus of Pergamon, and began a treatise on medicinal plants, dedicated to Augustus. Horace addressed to him the ninth ode of the second book.