I noted in an earlier thread the Lepanto was a decisive battle, but that we do not understand why these days, as we operate conceptually inside an entirely different frame of reference, that of the Mahanian maritime system.
So we look at all the contemporary opinions that 'yes, Lepanto was decisive' and we look at the map, see nothing much, and think 'they were wrong'.
They were not wrong, we do not understand their frame of reference.
To understand the importance of Lepanto we have to look at Djerba. Early in 1560, Gian Andrea Doria headed for Tripoli with 54 galleys, 5 galiots, 29 sailing ships and 35 other craft. He carried 5,000 troops. However, he vacillated and instead attacked Djerba. news reached Constantinople quickly and in March 1560 Piali Pasha sortied , colelcting reinforcements on teh way until he had 86 galleys. On 11 May 1560 he caught Doria by surprise and crushed him, taking or sinking either 28 or 30 galleys, half the sailing ships and all the minor craft.
This was a large percentage of total Habsburg naval power - but what really mattered was the loss of 600 oficiales and 2,400 sailor-arqubusiers.
Oficiale is not a translatable term. About 25 were required per galley.
An oficiale was the technical expert of teh galley, including the sailing master, pilot, boatswains, gunner, caulker, carpenter, rowing master, master-at-arms/provisioner, water controller and barber-surgeon. They also were the combat commanders aboard the galley and working as a seamless team, they fought the ship. They were never numerous and no Mediterranean power had the big offshore industry (exclusively fisheries in this era) which 'grew' them. Oficiales were the single point of failure for the galley-based maritime system.
Losing 600 oficiales at Djerba rendered Spanish seapower an 'easybeat' for the Turks from 1560 to 1566 - it took half a decade to replace teh 600 lost at Djerba. Lack of these men explains why Don Garcia de Toledo was so timid at the Seige of Malta. Only he was not timid, he had a very weak hand so he played the reinforcement game. His 4-galley reinforcement of early July 1566 carried 700 infantry and 40 knights and occurred at a critical time. In September, his carriage of a relief force of 11,000 infantry, and 200 knights in 28 galleys turned the tide of the seige.
Work by Guilmartin shows that aroud 90% of all the galleys in existence were at Lepanto, all but 2 of the galleasses, and almost all the Lantern galleys.
Muslim losses were dreadful, 200 galleys with all their bronze guns, 30,000 killed or wounded, 15,000 Christian galley-slaves freed and 3,000 prisoners. Only Uluj Ali escaped the disaster, with just 30 galleys.
The first action of the Council of Ten was to carefully interrogate all the prisoners, freed slaves and wounded to identify the Turkish oficiales - and execute them all by the end of June 1572. The Council asked the Venetian Ambassador to Madrid to meet secretly with Philip II to tell him of this and ask that he do the same. It is alleged that Philip II looked at him pityingly and said that he'd ordered Don Juan to do this months prior.
The Turks lost at least 4,000 oficiales. This was somewhere between 80 and 95% of them.
The only survivors were in Uluj Ali's 30 galleys, and they were all from the Barbary coast (he was, after all, Pasha of Algiers!)
The hastily rebuilt Ottoman fleet (now under Uluj Ali) met Colonna and Foscarini off Cerigo on 7 August 1572 and again on 10 August. Ali refused to fight at all. In 1573 Don Juan took Tunis, next year Ali used his 230-strong galley fleet to deliver 40,000 men to retake the place.
Only the ghazi fleet of the Barbary states could face even the reduced Spanish after 1575 - and it was exactly that force that escaped from lepanto with 30 galleys, and the oficiales they carried. The Constantinople fleet never recovered Tunis was its last victory, and it was a transport run. It was never able to rebuild its pool of oficiales.
If the USN were to have over 90% of its officer and SNCO corps (serving and retired) die overnight, how long would it take for the USN to recover?
That's what happened to the Caliph's fleet at Lepanto, and they never recovered.
I got this data from Gunpowder and Galleys. While doing so, I stumbled on a copy of Guilmartin's 'Galleons and Galleys'. I strongly recommend this latter book as an easily readable, informative work which clearly describes both the non-Mahanian Mediterranean maritime system and how the Mahanian maritime system developed. Yes, it was based on the ship-type known as 'galleon', but far more on the Dutch and British galleon force than the Spanish, Portuguese or Barbary States galleon forces.